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Hootie’s Rucker goes country at the ACMAs

Rucker donned blue jeans and boots and walked the orange carpet at Tuesday’s Academy of Country Music Awards, promoting an album he hopes to release this fall.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Former Hootie and the Blowfish front man Darius Rucker is hoping to reinvent himself as a country dude.

Rucker donned blue jeans and boots and walked the orange carpet at Tuesday’s Academy of Country Music Awards, promoting an album he hopes to release this fall.

The South Carolina native said the transition from college-radio pop singer to country crooner has been easy for someone who grew up listening to Patsy Cline and Buck Owens on AM radio and watching “Hee Haw” on TV.

“I’ve always been into it,” he said.

Rucker also said his forthcoming country album is no one-shot deal.

“I want to see myself here getting an award next year,” he said. “I plan to make a lot of country records.”

Swift gets star struckTeenager Taylor Swift wasn’t just a nominee at the Academy of Country Music Awards. She was a fan, too.

“I can’t help it. I’m just staring at all these people,” the 17-year-old said as she walked down the orange carpet.

Swift, who was nominated for best new female vocalist, had her trademark long blonde ringlets up in a loose bun as she arrived for the show.

Later in the evening, her hair flowing, Swift picked up a guitar and performed her hit song, “Tim McGraw,” for its namesake, as he and his wife, country star Faith Hill, sat in the audience, beaming.

“Hi, I’m Taylor,” she told McGraw at the end of the song, and he and Hill embraced her.

“Oh, that’s sweet. That’s very sweet,” the show’s host, Reba McEntire, said. “If there’s any teenage boys out there that want to write a song about Reba McEntire. I’m just sayin’... .”

Surviving Simon CowellThanks in part to the success of 2005 “American Idol” winner Carrie Underwood, the orange carpet at this year’s Country Music Awards was riddled with Simon Cowell survivors.

At least three other former “Idol” contestants trolled for media attention Tuesday, including Carmen Rasmusen (season two) and Bucky Covington and Kellie Pickler (season five).

Pickler, who was nominated for best new female artist, said “American Idol” got her ready for the big leagues, introducing her to the tough side of the business.

“It’s like musical boot camp,” said Pickler, who’d also glammed up her look for the show.

Covington hopes “Idol” will provide a launching pad to bigger and better things.

He even had praise for Cowell, saying he learned to control his blond curls after “American Idol’s” cantankerous judge picked on him during a particularly bad hair day.

Mysterious hugger
Who was that man whose cowboy boots were treading the orange carpet at Tuesday night’s 42nd annual Academy of Country Music Awards?

Whoever he was, he made the night for Sandra Hill, a legal assistant who traveled to Las Vegas from Houston to stand in nearly 100-degree temperature and whoop and holler as country music’s biggest names walked by.

Her efforts paid off when a tall, hunky man in cowboy boots ran across the carpet to give her a bear hug. A TV camera caught the scene as other fans looked on enviously.

Once it was over Hill was happy — and confused.

“I have no idea who that was,” she said, adding she thought she might have seen him in a bar the night before.

“But he’s dang cute,” said Tammy Bunot, an auditor in town from Salt Lake City.

The mysterious hugger was Hollywood Yates, a baritone-voiced actor, wrestler, dancer, rodeo bullfighter and motocross rider, according to his Web site.