"Every. Single. Time." That's what Darius Rucker told me when I asked if he still gets nervous about singing the national anthem at live, televised events. "I wish you could be inside my head for 15 minutes before I go on," he said. "I give myself the note in my head, or I do it out loud about a hundred times. Because I know if I start too high, I'm in for a world of embarrassment." But Rucker embarrassing himself is not likely at Tuesday's (Jan. 4) Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans. He's been doing the anthem for about 17 years, since his first time at a Monday Night Football game in 1994. "It was the Miami Dolphins and Pittsburgh Steelers," he recalled. "And after the game, Dan Marino took off his jersey and had it framed for me. It's still hanging in my house."
While Rucker's down in the Big Easy next week, he's also going to help with the ongoing clean-up efforts after Hurricane Katrina. "It's amazing that it's five years later and we still have work to do," he said. He'll be in the Lower Ninth Ward gardening, sweeping and cleaning up the streets. And then there's the concert. The free one in the French Quarter at 6:15 p.m. on Monday (Jan. 3). Rucker says these shows are the best. "The greatest thing about a free concert is you know it's gonna be packed. I do well in Ohio and in Arkansas, so I hope all those Buckeyes and Razorbacks fans are down there for the game. And any time you have a show in a place where they give you your drink in a to-go cup, you know it's gonna be a party," he laughed.