Darius Rucker’s ‘Darius and Friends’ Returns to Ryman Auditorium with Jelly Roll, HARDY and More

Darius Rucker’s “14th Annual Darius and Friends” concert benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital returned to Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Monday (June 5). The show sold out before the complete lineup was announced, something Rucker marveled at mid-set. 

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“We started this to be the first thing at CMA Fest and you guys have now made it a tradition,” Rucker said. “Thank y’all for coming out. Thank you for supporting St. Jude.”

Since Rucker started the annual benefit concert, he and concertgoers have raised more than $3 million for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Monday’s event was no exception, as a live auction kicked off the night with autographed guitars from the show’s lineup selling for $10,000.

The three-hour concert featured performances by Rucker, Jake Owen, Megan Maroney, Vince Gill, Jelly Roll and HARDY. Below are the highlights of the “14th Annual Darius and Friends” concert.

Darius Rucker

Rucker served as an engaging performer and affable host throughout the evening. He kicked off the benefit concert with a spirited three-song set featuring past radio hits “Alright” and “Radio” as well as the feel-good “Southern State of Mind.” The singer peppered the evening with hits from his catalogs as a country singer and Hootie & the Blowfish as well as several sing-along covers including Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” and Prince’s “Purple Rain.” 

Later in the evening, he shared the story behind writing Hootie & the Blowfish’s 1994 hit “Let Her Cry.” Rucker vividly recalled drinking at a bar in Columbia, South Carolina, when he heard the Black Crowes’ “She Talks to Angels” for the first time. He said he went to every bar in Columbia that night and offered $5 for the bar to play the song. 

“I’m drunk when I get home and I start playing Madden,” Rucker said. “While I’m playing Madden, I put on a Bonnie Raitt record called Home Plate, and when the record ends I remember saying to my drunk self, ‘I want to try to write ‘She Talks to Angels’ for Bonnnie Raitt.’”

Photo Credit: Keith Griner/Courtesy of EB Media PR

Jake Owen

Owen brought the party and the country classics during his three-song set. The Florida native launched into his performance with his barroom classic “Down to the Honkytonk” before he segued to the timeless summer anthem “Barefoot Blue Jean Night.” 

“I’m really grateful for my friend Darius,” Owen said. “He’s a great dude and what he’s done for St. Jude Children’s Hospital is a big, big thing and that’s something that’s really near and dear to our hearts as country artists. I actually got the opportunity the other night to play June Jam in Fort Payne, Alabama. [Alabama’s] Randy Owen is the patriarch and is the guy that started Country Cares to give back to St. Jude Children’s Hospital and it’s really what’s ingrained in artists like myself throughout the years to use our platforms and Darius has done an incredible job with that. I’m super happy to be here.”

Owen then closed his set with a spellbinding cover of Hank Williams Jr. The singer transported the Mother Church of Country Music back to 1979 with the singer’s “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” which highlighted his love of traditional country music. His deep vocals impressed and the standout backing band captivated with soaring fiddle and pedal steel accompaniment.   

Megan Maroney

Maroney immediately grabbed the attention of the Ryman Auditorium audience with the story behind the lead track from her debut album Lucky

“Thank you so much for being here and for supporting St. Jude,” she said as she took the stage. “I’m going to start with a song that I wrote about my ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend. A lot of people think I just write about my exes and it’s like, ‘Nope, nobody’s safe.’ This girl, she accidentally liked one of my photos on Instagram from 2016 at 2 a.m. I’m sure that she thought that I was sleeping but I was not. So, I saw that she accidentally liked a photo from 2016 and instead of calling her out, I just wrote this song. This is called ‘I’m Not Pretty.’”

[RELATED: Megan Moroney Talks Debut Album ‘Lucky’: “Everything I Love About Country Music”]

Maroney then transitioned into the song that “really changed my life” with debut single “Tennessee Orange.” The ballad about a Georgia Bulldogs college football fan falling in love with a Tennessee Volunteers fan is currently in the Top 10 on country radio.

She closed out her standout Ryman debut alone on stage with the heartfelt and autobiographical “Girl in the Mirror.” “This song I think has the most important message of all the songs on the record because I wrote it to remind myself to never love the boy more than I love me,” she explained.

Maroney held the audience, as well as Rucker, in the palm of her hand throughout the performance as the host returned to the stage and marveled at the singer/songwriter’s set. “I don’t even know what to say,” he said. “I’m discombobulated. That was awesome!”

Vince Gill

Gill’s three-song set also captivated the Ryman crowd. He took the stage solo with an acoustic guitar in hand while his ethereal vocals were at the forefront of his performance. While his heartfelt lyrics struck a chord, his inviting presence and occasional jokes had the venue alternate between laughter and awe. 

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer launched into his performance with “the song I wrote for my bride,” the sincere “Whenever You Come Around.” He’d follow up with the song “that let me get a bus like all the other hillbilly singers,” he joked. After he sang “When I Call Your Name” he admitted, “I love sad songs. That’s all I’ve got.” 

He concluded with “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” the poignant song he wrote about the passing of his older brother. “I’ll play a church song here at the Mother Church,” he said. Gill’s emotive vocals silenced the rowdy audience.   

[RELATED: Jelly Roll Reveals He ‘Cried for 20 Minutes’ When He Watched Teaser for ‘Jelly Roll: Save Me’]

Jelly Roll

Jelly Roll’s redemption story is nothing short of inspiring. From an incarcerated teenager to a multi-No. 1 hit singer/songwriter, Jelly Roll brought the sold-out audience to its feet for his memorable two-song set. The singer powered through “Son of a Sinner,” his first No. 1 on country radio to an adoring crowd that hung on every word. The singer then said he had just gotten off the field from playing a benefit softball game and apologized for his demeanor. 

“This was an adult softball game which means I had an adult beverage and I forgot I was singing plus I’ve been smoking a little Willie Nelson so y’all forgive me,” he said. “But I tell you what, this is a great cause and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”

He then performed his current Top 15 country single “Need a Favor,” which saw approval from both the audience and Rucker himself. “I only talk to God when I need a favor,” Rucker sang after Jelly Roll’s spirited performance. “What a great fucking line!”

HARDY

HARDY closed out the lineup of surprise guests at Rucker’s “14th Annual Darius and Friends” concert benefiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with a two-song set that highlighted both his songwriter roots and his redneck side.

The singer/songwriter kicked off his performance with the clever “A Rock,” a story song that follows the life experiences of a man. From a childhood of thinkin’ ’bout’s how far you can skip a rock to growing up and falling in love and saving up for a rock to death and inevitably they lay you down, and they write your name on a rock, the clever song showcased HARDY’s talents as a songwriter.

“We got the songwriter song out of the way, now let’s play some redneck shit,” HARDY declared. And with that, he launched into the fiery “Unapologetically Country as Hell,” also featured on his 2020 debut studio album A Rock.

Photo Credit: Keith Griner/Courtesy of EB Media PR

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