On This Day: Darius Rucker Gets a Surprise Grand Ole Opry Invitation in 2012

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for CMT)

In the 90s, Darius Rucker fronted the Platinum-selling rock band Hootie and the Blowfish. Years later, Rucker separated from the band and tried to find his own path in the music world. In 2008, he found that path with his country music debut Learn to Live. The album topped the Billboard country album chart and introduced the South Carolina native to a whole brand new audience. About four years later, Rucker would get the invitation that many country singers only dream of.

On this day in 2012, Brad Paisley surprised Darius Rucker with an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry.

Brad Paisley Invites Darius Rucker to the Circle

It was the night of October 2nd, 2012, and Darius Rucker was playing the Grand Ole Opry. Before he could finish his set, someone interrupted him. According to USA Today, Rucker thought that the Opry had introduced a Q&A segment to the show. Then, when Brad Paisley picked up a microphone to ask a question, Rucker thought Paisley – who is known to love a good practical joke – was pulling his leg.

Then, Paisley asked Darius Rucker if he’d like to join the Opry. “Oh, you’re kidding me. Really? No? Yes, I would. Wow,” the shocked singer replied. Then, Paisley joined him on stage and wrapped him in a hug. As Rucker wiped tears from his eyes, Paisley turned to the crowd and said, “Welcome him home, everybody. This is his new home right here.”

The last sentence meant the world to Darius Rucker. As a Black musician and a former rock singer, he felt the cards were stacked against him. He was, after all, the first Black artist to be invited to join the Opry since Charley Pride. It took them until 1993 to invite Pride to the Circle.

After his induction, Darius Rucker revealed what joining the Opry meant to him. “I remember when I first moved to Nashville, I told my manager, ‘Want to play the Opry as much as I can.’ Because Hootie tried to play the Opry, and it never worked out… That moment when I got inducted into the Grand Ole Opry was the first moment that I felt like I was a part of country music – what country music is and what country music does. They need lawyers to kick me out now. That was the moment I felt like I was in.”

Everybody but Darius Knew It Was Coming

Darius Rucker told USA Today that he had no idea the invitation was coming. However, everyone else in his life knew. “My wife said she wanted to bring a couple of friends for her birthday,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Sure.’ We jump on the bus. I get off the stage and all of my buddies from Charleston are here.”