Darius Rucker Throws a Party for Platinum Success of Learn to Live

His Debut Country Album Has Three No. 1 Hits, Sells More Than 1 Million Copies

Darius Rucker still seems to be in shock that a country label would sign him — and have success to boot. During his platinum party for Learn to Live at Nashville’s Sambuca restaurant Thursday evening (Aug. 20), the singer-songwriter who previously found multi-platinum success with Hootie & the Blowfish said he didn’t consider himself a smart investment.

“I wouldn’t have signed Darius Rucker,” he told reporters prior to the event.

Yet, from the stage, he enthusiastically credited Mike Dungan, the president of Capitol Nashville, for taking a risk. Dungan, manager Doc McGhee, producer Frank Rogers and numerous songwriters and publishers attended the private party to celebrate shipments of more than 1 million units. (The album has sold about 900,000 copies, but with digital sales, Dungan estimates the figure at 1.3 million.)

“Everybody that’s talked to me about this knows how much this means to me,” said Rucker, dressed casually, as always, in a black shirt and ball cap. “You know, I started this a long time ago. The first time I talked to Doc about it, Doc probably thought it was one of the worst ideas he had heard. But, you know, he came around. I’m happy for me, but if this hadn’t worked for me, I would have gone on. I would have gone on and spent my millions and lived my life and been fine.”

Turning to Dungan, he added, “But you, man, took a chance on something that nobody really wanted. You talk to anybody that’s running a label right now, and they’ll tell you they would have signed me. And they’re all lying. You took a chance. … I’m happy for me. But, damn, I’m happy for Mike Dungan.”

Rucker also emphasized the role of McGhee, who is also the longtime manager of Hootie & the Blowfish, as well as Kiss, Ted Nugent and Chris Cagle.

“Those of you who know me know that I grew up without a dad,” Rucker said. “I mean, he was never there. Never around. And it’s amazing to be 43 now and to have somebody who really is my dad. I talk to him about everything — every single thing in my life. It’s amazing to me to be part of the biggest management in the world and to be on his stable. I can’t thank Doc enough.”

Rucker also praised Rogers, who helmed the album project and helped create the sound that took Rucker’s first three country singles — “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “It Won’t Be Like This for Long” and “Alright” — to No. 1 at country radio.

“I want to thank all the songwriters but I’ll say this until the day I die: None of us would be here standing here with these plaques if Frank Rogers hadn’t decided to do this project,” he said. “I will tell anybody who listens to me: Frank Rogers is a freakin’ genius. He got my vision instantly, and he made the record I wanted to make. I love him like my brother. And I just want to say thank you.”

To conclude the party, Dungan told a story about bringing Rucker to Country Radio Seminar (CRS) in Nashville and suddenly realizing that they had become separated during a night at the Renaissance Hotel’s Bridge Bar — the top place to schmooze during the annual event for radio programmers. From the corner of his eye, he saw Rucker paying for a guy’s beer and noticed that as seven or eight more folks approached him, Rucker had tossed about a hundred dollars in cash on the bar. Finally, Dungan intervened.

“I ran over and I pulled him aside,” Dungan recalled. “I said, ’Darius, you know you shouldn’t be spending your own money. We have a tab.’ He was like, ’You don’t understand. I’m not like the other artists you work with. … I’m already rich!'”

View photos from Darius Rucker’s platinum party.
Craig Shelburne has been writing for CMT.com since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.