Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 9:00am

A decade after first visiting St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital where he was immediately inspired to pledge his support, Darius Rucker has surpassed the $2 million mark in his fundraising efforts with this year’s 10th annual “Darius & Friends” benefit concert on Monday night followed by his corresponding golf tournament and silent auction on Tuesday morning. This year’s event alone raised a record-setting $425,000+, bringing the all-time total to more than $2 million.
“I was struck on that first visit by how St. Jude not only cares for their patients, but also their patients’ families,” said Rucker. “They believe that a financial burden is the last thing a family should face when their focus needs to be on helping a kid get better, and St. Jude makes sure that their patients never pay a dime. It’s an honor for us to be able to help them continue such an important mission.”
The fundraising event has become an unofficial kickoff to CMA Fest over the years as fans descend on Music City for the week of festivities ahead. For its third year at the historic Ryman Auditorium, Rucker was joined by friends Jimmie AllenKane BrownLuke BryanSheryl CrowTravis Denning and Brett Young as well as more than 2,400 fans at the sold-out show. In addition to the announced lineup, “Darius & Friends” has earned a reputation for its exciting surprise guests and the trend continued this year with Lady Antebellum’s Charles Kelley.
After a silent auction and live donation round, St. Jude patients Ian and Warner greeted the crowd with a magic trick that earned a standing ovation to kick off the night. Rucker then got the music rolling with chart-topper “Alright,” immediately bringing the packed Ryman house to its feet once again. He continued with his ninth No. 1 hit at Country radio, “For the First Time,” before introducing newcomer Travis Denning who followed suit with current single “After A Few,” debut single “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs” and his take on The Allman Brothers Band classic, “Ramblin’ Man,” with its double-guitar solo in the final bridge emitting cheers and leading into yet another standing ovation.
Next on stage was nine-time GRAMMY Award winner Sheryl Crow, greeting the crowd with a Minnie Pearl-esque, “How-dee” before launching into her popular version of the Cat Stevens classic “The First Cut is the Deepest” together with Rucker. Crow then spoke of St. Jude’s powerful impact, telling the story of a girl she met at the hospital in the early days of her career then saw again at a meet and greet about five years ago. “I remembered her – she was missing her prom and she was 13. She had a rare form of cancer. She was cured at St. Jude and she’s now in her 30s,” Crow explained, as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. “These are the stories that you guys make possible by showing up to these things… and just having the big hearts that you have, and of course we know that Darius has a big heart. Every time he calls I’m like ‘Yes. Where and when would you like me to be there?’” As the audience cheered, Crow continued her emotional performance with “Strong Enough” and Gold-certified hit “Soak Up the Sun.” 
Rucker then returned to the stage to perform “Radio” and “Hands on Me” before introducing Jimmie Allen for a performance of his three-week No. 1 debut single “Best Shot” and a cover of Matchbox Twenty’s “Unwell” which saw him leave the stage and dance throughout the pews of the Ryman floor to the delight of the audience. “Darius is one of the reasons I wanted to play music,” Allen shared, “so it’s pretty cool to be a part of Darius & Friends tonight.”
Four-time ACM and CMA Entertainer of the Year Luke Bryan took to the stage next with his latest single, “Knockin Boots,” followed by recent No. 1 “Most People Are Good” before getting everyone dancing along with his signature moves for 4x Platinum “That’s My Kind of Night.” Rucker then returned to the stage with hits “Homegrown Honey” and “Comeback Song,” before introducing Brett Young for performances of “Sleep Without You” and “Like I Loved You.” “I want to see some dancing in the Mother Church tonight,” Young proclaimed before launching into a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get It On.” 
Kane Brown appeared next for the final announced set of the evening, performing “Short Skirt Weather” before earning a standing ovation for both his cover of Randy Travis’s “Three Wooden Crosses” and his recent No. 1 hit “Good As You.” The night didn’t end there though, as Charles Kelley made a surprise appearance to perform a powerful rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain” alongside Rucker. “There are friends, and there are friends,” Rucker explained when bringing Kelley on stage. “This guy’s my brother.” Kelley returned the love, proclaiming to the crowd: “my favorite person in the entire world, Darius Rucker!”
The evening ended according to tradition, with Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Sheryl Crow and Travis Denning returning to the stage to join Rucker and the sold-out Ryman crowd for a “Wagon Wheel” singalong, the feel-good energy throughout the auditorium symbolic of the night as a whole.
This year’s milestone fundraising event adds yet another successful page to the decade-long history of “Darius & Friends.” Prior guests have included Lauren Alaina, Brooks & Dunn, Charles Kelley of Lady Antebellum, Ashley McBryde, A.J. McLean of the Backstreet Boys, Brad Paisley, Kenny Rogers and Paul Stanley of KISS, among many others. 
The event is made possible with support from generous sponsors PGA TOUR, CDW, Hendrix Enterprises, UMG, CAA, A. O. Smith, AMD, Arrow and Intel.
Rucker, who has always prioritized philanthropic work, was honored with the ACM Gary Haber Lifting Lives Award last year for his efforts as well as the Harry Chapin Memorial Humanitarian Award at the recent 2019 Music Biz Awards. He continues this tradition of giving in the midst of the now-underway Hootie & the Blowfish Group Therapy Tour, the band’s first full outing in over a decade that comes with news of a forthcoming album with new label home UMG Nashville.
For more information, visit www.dariusrucker.com or follow on social media @DariusRucker.
About Darius Rucker
Rucker first attained multi-Platinum status in the music industry as the lead singer and rhythm guitarist of GRAMMY award-winning Hootie & the Blowfish. Since releasing his first country album in 2008, he has celebrated four No. 1 albums on the Billboard Country chart and nine No. 1 singles at Country radio, earning a whole new legion of fans. In 2014, Rucker won his third career GRAMMY award for Best Solo Country Performance with his 4x Platinum-selling cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel.” As a lifelong philanthropist, Rucker is a continuous supporter of the MUSC Children's Hospital in his hometown of Charleston, South Carolina, and has raised millions of dollars for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital through his annual Darius & Friends benefit concert and golf tournament, as well as for more than 200 charitable causes supporting public education and junior golf programs in South Carolina through the Hootie & the Blowfish Foundation. Currently, Rucker is on the road with his Hootie & the Blowfish bandmates for the Group Therapy Tour as they celebrate the 25th Anniversary of mega-hit Cracked Rear View as well as a forthcoming album with new label home Universal Music Group Nashville.
About Jimmie Allen
The epitome of the phrase “persistence pays off,” Jimmie Allen laid it all on the line to make his dreams a reality. Now signed to BBR Music Group’s Stoney Creek Records, Allen’s debut single “Best Shot” is a certified hit, claiming the top spot as the No. 1 Most Shazamed song in the format for eight consecutive weeks, and the No. 1 spot on Country radio for three weeks, marking the first time a black artist has launched a career with a No. 1 hit with their debut single on country radio. On the heels of that historic success, Allen is back with his latest single, “Make Me Want To” which was most added at country radio in its first week with 61 stations.

“Make Me Want To” is the second single off his Stoney Creek Records / BBR Music Group debut album Mercury Lane released Oct. 12, 2018. Named in tribute to the street he grew up on and the origin of his incredible journey, Mercury Lane was produced by Ash Bowers and Eric Torres and features a cutting-edge mix of country, rock, R&B and pop that draws upon the influence of his family and small-town upbringing of the critically-acclaimed rising star. Rolling Stone raved Allen’s debut “challenges the narrowly defined model of what constitutes a next big thing in country music in 2018” and The New York Times dubbed it one of 2018’s strongest, calling it “a conventional country album, filled with songs about the small details.”

The Southern Delaware native’s talent for songwriting is undeniable, having written a song that was featured in a Super Bowl commercial and appearing in a Diet Coke ad with megastar Taylor Swift. “Blue Jean Baby,” off his debut self-titled EP, immediately caught the attention of country music fans and critics alike with its soulful groove— rocketing it to the top of digital playlists, across all genres. Allen recently wrapped his run on Scotty McCreery’s Seasons Change Tour as well as Kane Brown's Live Forever Tour.  He will also be hitting the road this summer as support on Chris Young’s Raised on Country Tour and Rascal Flatts’ Summer Playlist Tour. The hot newcomer was heralded as one of the top “artists to watch in 2018” by Rolling StoneBillboard, Pandora, Sounds Like NashvilleNY Country SwagCountry Music Rocks and New England Country Music and has earned spots in CMT’s “18 for 2018” Listen Up program and Bobby Bones’ Class of 2018. For more information, visit 
About Kane Brown
With his sophomore chart-topping album Experiment, Kane Brown debuted No. 1 on both the Billboard 200 and Top Country Albums chart, becoming the only male country artist in more than 24 years to debut at the top of the Billboard 200, and only one of three country artists to top the Billboard 200 chart in all of 2018. Ranked by The New York Times as one of the Top 10 Best Albums of the Year, Experiment is available to stream and download 
2X CMT Music Awards nominee Kane Brown just scored his fourth No. 1 airplay single with his co-penned, fan-favorite track, “Good As You.” Written by Brown, Brock Berryhill, Shy Carter, Taylor Phillips and Will Weatherly, “Good As You” is the follow-up single to the singer/songwriter’s Platinum-certified #1 airplay and streaming hit, “Lose It,” which was preceded by Brown’s multi-week chart-topping hits “Heaven” and “What Ifs” off his record-breaking debut album.
Kane Brown continues to shatter records. Not only did he become the first artist in Billboard history to top all 5 Billboard Country charts, but in March, he broke the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo record for the biggest country artist debut in Rodeo Houston history with 75,126 fans in attendance. At this concert, Brown was surprised with a plaque commemorating the 4X Platinum certification of “Heaven;” he is now one of only five country acts with multiple 4X Platinum hits (joining Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt and Taylor Swift). “What Ifs” featuring Lauren Alaina was his first 4X Platinum single.
For more information, visit 
About Luke Bryan
Luke is a two-time Academy of Country Music and a two-time Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year, a five-time host of the ACM Awards, a NSAI Artist/Songwriter of the Year, was named a CMT Artist of the Year six consecutive years and was a judge on ABC’s “American Idol” in the last two years. Luke has more certified digital singles than any other country artist with 46 million tracks and 12 million albums with four billion music streams. Luke has placed 22 singles at No. 1, 12 of which he co-wrote. Over the last few years, Luke’s headline tours have performed for 1.5 million fans or more and in 2018 he performed more stadium dates in one calendar year than ever with a career total of 34. Last year, Luke opened Nashville’s only six-floor entertainment facility in the heart of Music City, LUKE’S 32 BRIDGE FOOD + DRINK. The name was inspired by Luke’s childhood home near Route 32 Bridge in Lee County, Georgia. Visit 
www.LukeBryan.com or follow Luke on Twitter @LukeBryanOnlineInstagram and Facebook.
About Travis Denning
A native of Warner Robins, Georgia, Travis Denning vividly remembers the moment he realized he wanted to pursue music for a living. He was seven years old sitting in his Dad’s truck and heard AC/DC for the first time. From then on, he was hooked and devoured all types of music from country, pop, rock and heavy metal. Denning started playing local bars at the age of 16 and built a solid following from his distinctive songs and raucous guitar licks. He moved to Nashville in 2014 and within a year signed a publishing deal with Jeremy Stover’s RED Creative Group. After securing outside cuts by Jason Aldean, Justin Moore, Michael Ray and Chase Rice he caught the attention of Universal Music Group where he eventually signed a record deal in 2017. Denning just released his new single “After A Few” which he co-wrote with Kelly Archer and Justin Weaver and is currently climbing country radio charts, following his Top 40 debut single “David Ashley Parker From Powder Springs.” Denning was recently selected as an Opry NextStage recipient and will receive unique opportunities to participate in events as well as connect with industry professionals.  The singer/songwriter has previously opened shows for Cole Swindell, Alan Jackson, Chase Rice, LANCO as well as Justin Moore and his first headlining Heartbeat Of A Small Town Tour. When Denning is not touring, he is in the studio working on his debut album.  
About Brett Young
Brett Young’s sophomore release, Ticket to L.A. (BMLG Records), debuted atop the Billboard Country Albums chart and follows his Platinum self-titled debut, which dominated the Top 20 on the Country Albums chart for 37 weeks. Delivering five consecutive No. 1 hits with “In Case You Didn’t Know” (4x Platinum), “Mercy” (2x Platinum), “Sleep Without You” (Platinum), “Like I Loved You” (Platinum) and “Here Tonight” (Gold), Young was named ASCAP’s 2018 Country Songwriter-Artist of the Year for his “melodic craftsmanship” (Billboard). He has also garnered nominations from ACM, Billboard, Teen Choice, CMT and CMA Awards as he continues to rack up nonstop hits as “one of country’s most consistent radio stars” (Rolling Stone). Young has amassed more than 1.7 billion streams of his catalog globally. He continues to bring his “big stage presence” (OC Register) and “engaging and vocally strong” (Providence Journal) live show coast-to-coast at multiple festivals throughout summer including Nissan Stadium at CMA Music Fest in Nashville on June 8, Country LakeShake in Chicago, IL on June 22 and Faster Horses in Brooklyn, MI on July 19. He will also open for Luke Bryan at Gillette Stadium on June 21. For additional information, visit 
About St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. Its purpose is clear: Finding cures. Saving children.® It is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center devoted solely to children. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20 percent to more than 80 percent since the hospital opened more than 50 years ago. St. Jude won't stop until no child dies from cancer. St. Jude freely shares the discoveries it makes, and every child saved at St. Jude means doctors and scientists worldwide can use that knowledge to save thousands more children. Families never receive a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live. Join the St. Jude mission by visiting 
stjude.org, liking St. Jude on Facebook, following St. Jude on Twitter and Instagram and subscribing to its YouTube channel.