In a perfect world, Darius Rucker would have packed fans and all-star guests into the Ryman Auditorium in early June for his annual Darius and Friends benefit concert for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, raising thousands of dollars for the Memphis, Tenn., hospital with a night of live music. Of course, 2020 has been anything but perfect.

As a video reminded those watching Rucker's Thursday night (July 30) livestream concert, however, childhood cancers haven't gone away just because the world is in the middle of a pandemic. The cause is just as important as ever, and Rucker wasn't about to let a year of fundraising fall by the wayside.

So, Rucker and his resourceful team changed venues and enlisted a pared-down list of friends for an hour-long streaming show, live from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry House, which has been hosting audience-less Saturday night Opry shows since the novel coronavirus shut down venues in March. Quarantine best practices were in effect as Rucker and his band, Clint Black and Tracy Lawrence took the stage for an audience watching from home.

"The audience seems a little bit unresponsive tonight," Black quipped as he came onstage. After his first song, "America (Still in Love With You)," as the band and a few offstage viewers offered a light smattering of applause, he joked, "Thank you ... Easy ... Settle down!"

A $15 donation to St. Jude earned fans access to the Darius and Friends stream, though additional donations were encouraged, and viewers could bid on various auction items throughout the event. Rucker did the lion's share of the performing, with Black and Lawrence each offering two songs. All three capped off the night with an all-call on (what else?) "Wagon Wheel."

The star of the night did his best to pick upbeat numbers from his vast country catalog: "Alright" opened the show, while later on, he shared his to-be-released single "Beers & Sunshine" with those watching. Rucker co-wrote the song via Zoom during quarantine, encouraging listeners to "turn on the good tap, turn off the TV" because "the only B.S. I need is beers and sunshine."

Darius and Friends is one of a number of fundraising events for St. Jude hosted by members of the country music community each year. The genre has been closely tied with the children's research hospital since 1989, when Alabama member Randy Owen began the Country Cares for St. Jude Kids program.

As part of Country Cares' annual series of radiothons, stations owned by Townsquare Media, Taste of Country's parent company, raised more than $2.2 million earlier in 2020. To make a donation to St. Jude, visit their official website.

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