Feature Artist: Hootie & the Blowfish
The Blowfish was formed in the late 80s when four University of South Carolina students got together to play some music. They named the group after two friends of Darius' and started playing gigs around Columbia. Three independent releases soon followed: Hootie & the Blowfish (1990), Time (1991) and Kootchypop (1993), which featured the collaboration of Don Dixon (who's produced R.E.M. and the Smithereens). To avoid suffering the impoverished fate that befalls many ispiring professional musicians, the band formed a legal partnership in 1990, which they dubbed Fishco. That move enabled the foursome to get better gigs and embark on proper tours, while also giving them control over their recordings and merchandise. Thanks largely to the vision of bassist Dean Felber (a USC finance major) and their management staff, the band's members were able to quit their day jobs and pursue music full-time.
What began with burning live performances and widespread regional acclaim across the Mid-Atlantic and South would eventually grow into a national phenomenon debut. The Hootie fan base, which had been cultivated for years from the stage, immediately made their presence known by helping push the group to a #1 entrance on the national new artists chart.
The album's first single, Hold My Hand (with backing vocals by David Crosby), began to make inroads at radio stations across the country, and people started scratching their heads about the band's most-memorable name. That September, Hootie traveled to New York City to make their first of many appearances on the Late Show with David Letterman where Dave himself proclaimed the foursome "one of my favorite new bands."
After giving virtually all of 1994 to the road (apart from taking a bit of time out to complete work on their debut Atlantic album, Cracked Rear View) and then keeping up the pace throughout 1995, you'd think that nearly two years of little soaps, plastic forks, and no-theft hangers would have taken their toll.
But when last October rolled around and they'd finally reached the last page of their epic tour itinerary, instead of winding down, the Columbia, South Carolina-based quartet geared up, eagerly getting into recording what would become Fairweather Johnson; their second Atlantic outing.
"We were playing so well at the end of the tour, and that perfectly translated right into the studio," says Dean Felber. "That togetherness went from the stage right onto the tape. If we'd taken some time off to relax, we might have lost that edge." "Although we were tired, we were highly motivated, says Jim "Soni" Sonefeld. "We didn't want to sit around and over-think the whole thing. We just went straight in to record, and it happened for us."
Initial work on the album actually began in early 1995 at a friend's cozy home studio in Bermuda, just prior to rehearsals for the three-month-long North American Summer Camp With Trucks tour.
Recording began in October with Cracked Rear View producer Don Gehman at The Site studios in the scenic hills of Marin County, California. The location provided the ideal Hootie environment: state-of-the-art studio gear, fresh air, open space, and an outdoor basketball court. We'd play some basketball, record for a while, and then play some more," says Dean. The Site came highly recommended by their friends in Toad The Wet Sprocket and by Gehman, who had accompanied the band on the last week of the 95 tour and during the second Bermuda trip.