When the Country Music Association called Darius Rucker and asked if he'd help open the Nov. 8 Awards show with his 1994 hit song "Hold My Hand," he said he was shocked.
"For the song that (Hootie & the Blowfish) played in clubs for years and years to be opening the CMAs -- with a who's who of country music 25 years later -- I was really flattered," Rucker told me on Wednesday night (Nov. 15) before his performance at the CBS Radio Stars & Strings show in Chicago.
And I asked him to take me back to the time when he and his bandmates Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Soni Sonefeld wrote the iconic tune when they were living and gigging in South Carolina.
"That's a great story," he said. "Our drummer had left the band, and we were auditioning drummers one day at my apartment in Columbia. We were playing way too loud for an apartment complex. So we had about six or seven drummers come through that day.
"And so Soni comes in and plays, and we liked him a lot. We sat around talking, and he told us, 'I like playing, but I really want to write songs.' And I said, 'So do we. That's the plan.'"
Then Sonefeld just casually told Rucker that he had an idea for a song, and it turned out to be "Hold My Hand."
"He said, 'I've been working on this song,' and he started playing. We were like, 'OK. You're in the band.' Then we finished writing it, and we were blown away that this kid just walked in with that song."
The CMA Awards used the uplifting song to open the 2017 telecast with positive vibes and a message of peace and harmony. Rucker led the singalong that featured Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks and Reba McEntire.
Back in the early 90s, Rucker thought "Hold My Hand" was a pretty good song, he told me, but he never could've imagined the future it had.
"We never looked at songs like whether or not they'd be hits. It was just about, 'Do we like it or not like it?' We just wrote songs, and if we all liked it, we'd keep it. But if one of us didn't," he said, "we'd stop playing it."