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A welcome home to pop/rock singers embracing country

The majority of my friends are not country music fans, which may lead you to ask, “Then why are they your friends?”

Here’s the deal, I just let them keep hating and thinking that they don’t like country, when it fact they do, and have for years.

You may hear Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Hunter Hayes, Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry played on other radio stations, but those artists will tell you they are country to the core. It just takes some of them a little longer than others.

Darius Rucker, for example, had a huge career as the frontman for Hootie and the Blowfish. By the way, Darius is not Hootie and the other members of that band were not the Blowfish. The name came from two childhood friends. The guys came together as freshmen at the University of South Carolina. After several Grammys, huge hits and several million albums sold, Darius put the band on hiatus to pursue his country career in 2008.

His single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” made him the first black person with a No. 1 country song since Charley Pride in 1983. Darius’ song then led to the CMA Award for New Artist. His second album produced even more No. 1 records, and last October he achieved a childhood dream when he was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

Not bad huh? On his website, Darius talks about his “second career.” “From where I was five years ago to the CMA’s and the Grand Ole Opry, why would I believe that?” he says. “I didn’t even know if country radio was going to play my song, but you can’t think about things like that.”

His third country album, “True Believers,” is being released on Tuesday, and if the first single, a remake of the Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” is any indication, his latest effort will win more awards.

The tune “Love Without You” features another pop singer pursuing a “second career” in country, Sheryl Crow. Darius says he’s wanted to record with Sheryl ever since they sang together at a VH1 function almost 20 years ago.

Named as one of the Most Beautiful People in a recent edition of People magazine, Sheryl stopped by the K99.1 studios last week to perform and give us a sneak peek of her country debut, an album due out this fall. “Easy” is the first single, bringing to mind the summer vacation vibe Sheryl is best known for. While performing at our building, she told the packed crowd the story of the song “Waterproof Mascara,” co-written with Brad Paisley, who had asked her if she was ready to “come home” to country.

Like Darius Rucker, Sheryl Crow is an established superstar. After nine Grammys, 15 million plus in album sales, a successful battle over breast cancer, she arrived at our studios in style.

Big tour bus, complete with an “entourage” that consisted of a bus driver, her record reps Kevin and Chris, her longtime guitarist Peter, her nanny Liz, and, most important, her little boys Wyatt and Levi, who brought along his well-loved “Ducky” for a station tour.

My nonbeliever friends were astounded at our good fortune. “Oh my God! How did you get Sheryl Crow to come to a country station?” I guess you could say it was “easy.” After all, all she did was “come home.”

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