It wasn’t billed as a party, but halfway through Darius Rucker’s ninth annual “Darius & Friends” show at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, it sure felt like one.
That could be part of the reason why Darius continues to host one of his biggest events of the year, but it isn’t the biggest part. The reason the beloved singer comes back year after year is more about St. Jude, the beneficiary of the night.
“Nine years ago we wanted to do something and we decided this would be a cool thing to do and it did turn into something cool,” Darius said. “It’s amazing we’ve raised over a million dollars.”
Trace Adkins, who was also part of the night’s line-up, has a personal reason for getting involved. “I started working with St. Jude probably my first year way back in ’96. Shortly after that I developed a relationship with a young lady at St. Jude, her name was Jessica, and just fell in love with her, and then lost her and it broke my heart,” Trace said. “I’ve continued working with St. Jude ever since. There is no more noble cause than that. I’m always eager to get involved with anything that supports St. Jude.”
Darius and Trace weren’t the only ones eager to support the children’s hospital. Lauren Alaina brought her amazing voice and zany sense of humor to the stage, while newcomer Rachel Wammack made her debut on the Ryman stage.
Ashley McBryde gave passionate performances of her songs “Little Dive Bar In Dahlonega” and “American Scandal,” but offered an equally impassioned plea to find a cure for childhood cancer. Bobby Bones gave a tender performance of his tongue-in-cheek “Chick-fil-A But it’s Sunday” before Darius joined him for a cover of Beastie Boys “Fight for Your Right.” And Darius returned to join Brad Paisley for a performance of Prince’s “Purple Rain.”
Of course, no country music party is complete without special guests and Darius had them with Backstreet Boys A.J. McLean and fellow South Carolinian, Edwin McCain. This year’s concert, auction and golf tournament raised $404,000 for St. Jude, breaking the previous year’s record.
Nearly three hours later, the show closed with the crowd on their feet singing along with Darius and friends to “Wagon Wheel.” And we’re certain the Ryman will never be the same.