Darius Rucker rounded up some famous friends, from fellow country star Jason Aldean to golf buddy John Daly, at the Ryman Auditorium on Tuesday night (Aug. 17) to raise funds for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.
Highlights from Rucker include an emotional tribute to the late Nanci Griffith and her song "I Wish It Would Rain" and on-stage banter about how memories of his fifth grade girlfriend inspired an Ed Sheeran co-write. In addition, Rucker shared the stage with a newer friend, Keb' Mo', for a cover of Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On," and Daly, a regular at these sorts of events, for a tribute to Jimi Hendrix.
Beyond those highlights, Aldean joked about drawing the short straw and having to follow a performance by Rucker and his band of Hootie and the Blowfish's "Hold My Hand" while both Elvie Shane and Runaway June made their Ryman debuts. Runaway June's set stood out, between the unveiling of a new song (one that tells us that the trio's "been there, done that, got the t-shirt") and a countrified jam of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' "American Girl" (Southern accents, indeed).
Southern accents indeed (or, I didn’t know “American Girl” was lacking a fiddle solo).
Brothers Osborne rounded out Tuesday night's benefit concert lineup.
Per a press release, this year's event and Rucker's annual golf tournament raised more than $410,000. The concert drew a packed house to the Ryman and was livestreamed via Mandolin.
Last summer, Rucker raised an additional $255K for St. Jude with his annual Darius & Friends concert, which was held virtually due to the coronavirus (COVID-19). The event, featuring Rucker, Clint Black and Tracy Lawrence, was held at the Opry House on July 30, 2020.
"When we first started talking about this year's #DariusandFriends, which usually takes place during the week of CMA Fest, I had the idea to make it a really fun night of '90s Country," Rucker wrote on social media. "Even though gathering in person for our normal show wasn't possible, we still wanted to do as much as we could to support the great work happening at @stjude. I'm so thankful to my friends @clint_black and @therealtracylawrence for helping that '90s Country vision still come to life, and to the folks at @LiveXLive for bringing this concert to everyone's screens at home."
The summer before that (June 3, 2019), the 10th annual Darius and Friends benefit concert, charity golf tournament and auction upped the total funds raised for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to over $2 million. The 2019 event raised over $425,000 on its own.
The children's hospital fundraising event, an unofficial kick-off for CMA Fest, had been hosted at the Ryman Auditorium for the previous three years (and returned there in 2021). In 2019, more than 2,400 fans enjoyed a stacked country music lineup: Jimmie Allen, Kane Brown, Luke Bryan, Sheryl Crow, Travis Denning and Brett Young.
"I was struck on that first visit by how St. Jude not only cares for their patients, but also their patients' families," said Rucker in a press release. "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."
Read More: The 10 Best Darius Rucker Songs
Rucker is a longtime supporter of St. Jude and even recorded a song inspired by a St. Jude patient.
Per the St. Jude website, the non-profit "is leading the way the world understands, treats and defeats childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases."
This article was originally published in June of 2019. It was updated on August 20, 2021.