Darius Rucker rewrote the record books in 2008 and 2009, and could make history on Wednesday night's CMA Awards as the first African-American to win the Best New Artist trophy.

But the man who fronted Hootie and the Blowfish before carving his unique niche as a successful country star -- with the million-selling album, 'Learn to Live' -- says he made a decision early on to chart his own musical course.

"When I was 4, I just kind of found these Beatles 45s," Darius tells the Associated Press, "I think I just said to myself, 'I'm never going to let anybody tell me what I can listen to.' And I never did. When I was sitting there watching 'Hee Haw,' my brother didn't want to watch it. He was older than me but there was going to be a friggin' fight if they didn't let me watch 'Hee Haw.'"

While Darius is up for two CMA Awards, he could join Charley Pride as the only African-American to ever win Best Male Vocalist. And he clearly doesn't mind being mentioned in the same breath as the legendary Country Music Hall of Famer. "You can't help but smile when someone mentions your name in the same sentence as Charley Pride."

Another important aspect of Darius' career has been the ability to mix genres, which also reminds him of his musically diverse childhood.

"You have those memories of Charley Pride coming on 'Hee Haw' and doing his hits," he says. "When I was 7, you could have Charley Pride and Buck Owens, Stevie Wonder and The Who on the same radio station."

Still, says Darius, when it comes to his own music, "It seems clear to me that if I didn't deliver songs that country music fans wanted to hear, then radio wasn't going to play them."

Darius will be performing on the CMA Awards show Wednesday night (Nov. 11), airing live on ABC beginning at 8 p.m. (ET).