Ending a relationship that spanned 12 years and saw Hootie and the Blowfish sell more than 15 million records, the band's manager, Rusty Harmon, resigned last week.
Harmon had become an influential force on the local rock scene. He advised other bands, taught a course at USC in music management and worked with charity functions such as S.C. Junior Golf and VH1's Save the Music, a program designed to bolster music instruction in public schools.
Neither Harmon nor the members of Hootie and the Blowfish would comment on the resignation. Any speculation about the demise of Hootie was addressed by drummer Jim Sonefeld, who said the band was writing songs for its next album.
"We hope to have a new record out next year," he said.
Harmon did say he was excited about going home to Raleigh.
"After 11 great years in Columbia, I'm finally moving back to my hometown to be near my family and friends," he said. "Now I won't have to drive 3 1/2 hours to see real college football."
Harmon also said he would work on a master's degree in communications while teaching a music management class at North Carolina State University. In fact, the class will be expanded into a three-part series including management, record production and record promotion.
"The class will bring in a band and a producer, guide them through the recording, then spend a semester working the record," Harmon said. "It's exciting. I hope to someday start a full-fledged music management curriculum."
Harmon was a student at N.C. State in 1989 and working as an intern at M-80 Management in Raleigh when he first met Hootie and the Blowfish.
After listening to a Hootie demo tape and being impressed by Darius Rucker's powerful singing, Harmon encouraged M-80 chief Dick Hodgin to produce a new recording for the Columbia band.
When Hootie arrived in Raleigh to begin work with Hodgin in Jag Studios, Harmon befriended the band and showed them around the North Carolina capital.
"We'd play basketball during the day and go out every night," Harmon said in a 1996 interview. "We were all the same age and into sports, so we just had a good time."
When Hootie completed their recording project with Hodgin, the band thanked Harmon in the tape's liner notes.
"For all the things I had done for bands over the years, that was the first time I was ever mentioned in the credits," he said.
Harmon moved to Columbia in 1990 to become Hootie's full-time manager, setting up an office in an upstairs room in Five Points that's now occupied by Saluda's restaurant. He negotiated Hootie's deal with Atlantic Records in 1993, and the band's debut album for Atlantic, "Cracked Rear View," became the largest-selling debut album after it was released in 1994. Alanis Morissette broke that record in 1997 with "Jagged Little Pill."
"I'm sure it's (the resignation) going to be another chapter in their (the Blowfish and Harmon's) lives," Hodgin said. "It's hard to know how that's going to affect them in the future. Rusty certainly was one of the primal forces that helped Hootie become who they became."
Staff Writer Christina Knauss contributed to this report.