Legend has it that David Letterman heard “Hold My Hand” on the radio and asked his staff to find out who the band was.
“That’s what we were told,” says Hootie & the Blowfish guitarist Mark Bryan.
More than 20 years after Hootie made its 1994 debut on “Late Night with David Letterman,” the South Carolina band is returning to New York City to help bid farewell to the iconic talk-show host. Hootie & the Blowfish will appear Thursday on the “Late Show with David Letterman” as part of Letterman’s final series of shows before he retires.
“This really means a lot to us, because we’ve always been huge fans of Dave’s,” said Bryan. “As a kid growing up in the ’80s, he was someone we all watched. He’s the one who took over for Johnny Carson.”
Hootie’s first appearance on Letterman’s show meant a lot to the band, which in 1994 was just breaking big out of Columbia behind it’s “Cracked Rear View” album.
In the midst of a tour, the band flew to New York City for the taping, then jetted back to Columbia for a celebratory concert the same night at the Township Auditorium.
Letterman introduced the band by saying, “If you don’t have this album, there’s something wrong with you.”
“Nervous? Oh my gosh,” Bryan said. “It was nerve-wracking for sure, but once you start playing the music, you just do what you do.”
The Letterman appearance boosted sales of “Cracked Rear View” from about 5,000 per week to about 17,000 per week.
“It was one of the first national TV gigs we did,” Bryan said. “But that was the one that had the impact. Everything just kept going up from there. He was instrumental in the whole process, but a lot of things were.”
Thursday’s appearance on Letterman comes as buzz appears to be building for a new album from Hootie & the Blowfish, which has been on something of a hiatus while lead singer Darius Rucker pursues a career in country music.
The band plays a handful of concerts in the Lowcountry each year, at its Monday After The Masters event and its Homegrown concerts at Family Circle Stadium on Daniel Island.
Rucker, who just released his own “Southern Style album,” has been dropping hints about a new Hootie album, saying, “We want to do it when it’s right. I want to do it when country music knows I’m just taking a hiatus for a minute. ‘I’ll be right back,’ you know?”
Bryan said band members, including drummer Jim Sonefeld and bassist Dean Felber, are starting to write songs with an eye toward a new album.
“We’re talking about writing again,” Bryan said. “Darius is on tour for the rest of the summer and into the fall, so right now we’re exchanging ideas on email and hope to start jamming in the fall.”
Meanwhile, Hootie & the Blowfish will say goodbye to Letterman by playing another rendition of “Hold My Hand” on Thursday night.
“It will be like coming full circle,” Bryan said.
Abigail Darlington contributed to this report.