Hootie & the Blowfish collection comes to UofSC Libraries

Rick Noble donates a treasure trove of band memorabilia

Rick Noble is quick to say he is not a Hootie & the Blowfish groupie. He is just a big fan.

How big? The spreadsheet of his Hootie memorabilia tells the story. It catalogs the CDs and T-shirts, ticket stubs and posters, Monday after the Masters programs and record store banners, drumsticks and Hootie golf balls. The list goes on.

And it’s all coming to the University of South Carolina Libraries.

Noble, who is retired from a career in nonprofit work, including as the long-time CEO of Richland County First Steps, is donating his substantial Hootie collection to the alma mater of the four band members. Darius Rucker, Mark Bryan, Dean Felber and Jim “Soni” Sonefeld met and formed Hootie & the Blowfish while they were students at UofSC.

"The support of fans like Rick Noble over the past 30 years is what allowed the dreams we had as South Carolina students to become reality on stages across the world,” Rucker says. “It's such a special, full-circle moment to see his collection come home to the UofSC library and we couldn't be more thankful to him for supporting both our band and our university."

It’s the second contemporary music memorabilia collection to come to University Libraries; a large collection of guitars, photographs, artwork and costumes from the rock band KISS was donated last fall. Libraries Dean Tom McNally said the two collections show the library is open to the changing nature of collections – and collectors.

“The World War II generation collected books and manuscripts because they were a generation of readers. The Baby Boomer generation listened to and loved music. We’re finding a whole new area of collecting with the rock bands that people love so much,” McNally says. “These are things that will have research importance and they are really fun to see. From an exhibit standpoint, this is wonderful.”

Years of collecting

Noble, a lifelong music fan who has collected everything from stamps to pottery, says he first became interested in Hootie when he listened to his daughter’s copy of Kootchypop, an early EP that was released by the band in 1993.

“I really liked the band and the music. I liked the way they handled themselves. I liked the fact that it was USC where they met,” Noble says.

Then, in 1995, when Noble was involved in putting on the women’s Olympic marathon trials in Columbia, the band agreed to do a benefit concert for the race. The show raised $45,000 for the marathon trials, and further connected Noble with the band and its management.

“And they just started giving me stuff — T-shirts and other merchandise and whatever. And I just went on from that. I admit to an obsessive-compulsive tendency. But it just was a treasure hunt.”

The story of Hootie & the Blowfish is forever entwined with the University of South Carolina – it’s one of the exciting pieces of our modern history.

Interim President Harris Pastides

Noble, his wife, Lynne, and their children moved to Columbia in 1979 when Lynne accepted a position at the university. Rick Noble was the founding CEO of Communities in Schools in 1987 prior to working at First Steps from 2000-2018. After 40 years of living in Columbia, the couple retired and now split their time between homes in Asheville, N.C., and New Brunswick, Canada. His Hootie collection, housed for many years at their home in Columbia’s Shandon neighborhood, was moved to his North Carolina home, where it resides in large Rubbermaid tubs.

This spring, when Noble was watching the Gamecocks women’s basketball team’s run to the national championship, he heard Rucker promising a concert and watched Interim President Harris Pastides celebrating on the court after the final game.

“I sent Harris an email saying, ‘I've got this great collection of Hootie stuff. I want to donate it to the university.’ And I mean, he responded within five or 10 minutes and was very enthusiastic.”

“The story of Hootie & the Blowfish is forever entwined with the University of South Carolina – it’s one of the exciting pieces of our modern history,” Pastides says. “Rick’s collection will help capture that story and preserve it for future generations. We are so grateful for his foresight, dedication and generosity in sharing a gift that increases the stature of the University Libraries music collections.”

Noble’s conversation with Pastides resulted in Noble attending Rucker’s concert in April at the Colonial Life Arena and meeting with the library staff about his collection.

“Everybody at the university has been great. Not that I'm surprised by that. I think that’s indicative, certainly of (Pastides), and also of the university’s style, which is just so gracious and so welcoming and so thankful,” Noble says.

Soon, the Hootie collection will be back in the place where it all began for the band.

“Hootie & the Blowfish have always been really special to the university and definitely have supported the university,” McNally says. “So, what better place for their collection to be?”

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