Garnet Sounds: Gamecocks alums in popular music

Our beloved Cocks historian Tryptic recently cataloged his Daily Feed tracks, a post which prompted a discussion about USC alums currently making music. Since music is the only thing I'm more passionate about than my alma mater, so I thought this presented the opportunity for a lighthearted feature post, wherein I run through the list of Gamecock alums who are/were on the scene. I should note from the outset that I regrettably don't have any record of what are sure to be dozens of classical/jazz musicians who attended our fine institution and are currently playing professionally around the country. This list will focus on the popular realm, which is not to say "pop music".

Oh, and in the interest of tying it into sports, here ya go.



Hootie and the Blowfish/Darius Rucker

Most Americans may think of Hootie as a poster-band for 90s pop rock has-beens, but we all have a special place in our hearts for Darius and crew. As I like to tell people not born and raised in the state, "As a kid growing up in South Carolina in the 90s, the five people I heard about more than anyone were Jesus, Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim 'Soni' Sonefeld." Indeed, Hootie was king in the mid-90s and they weren't shy about their Gamecock roots. The band still reunites at least once a year down here in Charleston. Mark Bryan is quite involved in the local music scene, and I believe he actually teaches a music business course at College of Charleston.

Meanwhile, Darius Rucker has a thriving solo career as a pop-country artist. I don't claim to be a fan of his solo stuff, but Cracked Rear View still invokes a warm nostalgia and I don't apologize for my fandom. By the way, there are only 17 records that have ever sold more copies in the USA than Cracked Rear View. 17. That's it. And three of those are greatest hits collections. The album has sold more than anything by the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springstein, or Elton John. Granted, record sales don't necessarily indicate anything but mass appeal, but it's impressive nonetheless, and it's hard to call them a flash-in-the-pan based on that impressive number.



Amos Lee

One of the more nationally visible figures of the singer-songwriter set, Lee has served as opening act for some impressive names, including Bob Dylan, John Prine, Paul Simon, and Merle Haggard. A native of New Jersey (had the G.A. Mangus recruiting pipeline already opened back then?), Lee earned an English degree from USC in the late 90s. His album last year, Mission Bell, debuted at #1. Not bad!

I'm not a big Amos Lee fan, admittedly. But I did know that he's a Gamecock grad and I have a joyous recollection associated with that. One night, a mildly obnoxious friend of mine--a Clemson diehard who is obsessed with Amos Lee--kept prattling on about "Amos" this and "Amos" that! Finally I asked her, "You know where he went to school right?" She looked a little puzzled and asked, "No, where?" After I informed her he was a Carolina grad, she paused and thought. "The sad thing is, that doesn't make me like him less, it makes me like Carolina more."



Toro y Moi

Chaz Bundick only graduated in 2009, but since then he's become a fixture in the world of indie music. Both his official albums have been critically well-received, and he's become one of the Rushmore-heads of the chillwave movement. What is chillwave? Spacey vocals, synthesizers, samples. Bundick has moved on to a more progressive indie rock sound, now playing with a full band and moving away from the bedroom-producer stuff with which he made his name.

I'm proud to call myself a fan since the beginning. I saw him play the back porch of Andolini's Pizza on Wentworth Street in Charleston with about 30 others. Now he's opening for notable indie rock acts and touring the world.



Washed Out

I feel a little dirty listing this one, since Ernest Greene holds an undergrad degree from UGA. But he owes a lot to Columbia--he earned a graduate degree at South Carolina and met Chaz along the way. Together, they're responsible for the Soda City's status as a hotbed of a socially intriguing genre of music. Both Ernest and Chaz released excellent records last year, and one of Ernest's songs can be heard on theopening credits of the brilliant IFC comedy show "Portlandia".




Lead singer Ed Sloan (second from right) attended USC. OK, look: I'm not a big nu metal fan. In fact, calling me a nu metal fan in any sense of the word would be an outright lie. But for what it's worth, you have to give Crossfade credit. They're a Columbia band who went huge with one song (the mid-2000s anthem "Cold".) What's more, when I was studying visual communications, they were good enough to come into one of my design classes and challenge us design a cover for their next album.

Gary Parsons

Gary's not a musician (not by trade, anyway.) But he did found XM Satellite Radio and until 2009 was chairman of the board of Sirius XM. So you can certainly argue he was partly responsible for a new era in radio.


There may be more, but these are all the musicians Wikipedia had listed under our notable alumni section. If I did miss any, please post in the comments section!

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