Darius Rucker, country Singer, holds Best New Artist award, during the 43rd Annual Country Music Awards, Nashville, Tennessee
Brian Mansfield, Special for USA TODAY
Darius Rucker knew he was taking the bait from a troll Sunday when he responded to a racist tweet.
But the suggestion that the Wagon Wheel singer "leave country music to white folk" seemed so random and out of the blue that it made for a shocking disruption to a Sunday afternoon spent with friends.
"It's such a few-and-far-between thing," says Rucker, 47. "It doesn't happen that often. I don't know who it was - some kid thinking he was cool, I guess."
But when Rucker scrolled through other tweets on the account - which has since been deleted and re-registered by someone wanting to use it "to promote good things & not hatred" - he found he wasn't the tweeter's only target.
"I read a couple of his tweets and was like, 'This guy's a real racist; he ain't kidding,' " Rucker says. "I was like, 'I have to expose this idiot.'
"We think we've come such a long way, and there's always somebody that wants to take a step back."
Rucker replied, quoting the original tweet and saying, "WOW. Is this 2013 or 1913." In another tweet, Rucker added that he'd take his Grand Ole Opry membership "and leave your racism."
Rucker released his third country album, True Believers, this week. He's had five No. 1 country singles, and his cover of Old Crow Medicine Show's Wagon Wheel is No. 2 this week on USA TODAY's country airplay chart. He joined the Opry cast in October 2012.
Rucker says he has encountered comments like the one on Twitter occasionally throughout his career as frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish and as a solo act.
"Back in the club days, we'd be playing some place, and somebody would say, clearly, 'It's a pretty good band, except for the fact they've got a (racial slur) singer,' " he says. "We heard that."
These days, such comments more often come through social media. Rucker had another tweeter target him about six months ago, he says.
"Obviously, he was drunk, but he was vicious. The things he said made that tweet look like nothing. I heard that guy ended up getting kicked out of his fraternity and kicked out of his college because of the tweets.
"But people get drunk or think they can say anything they want on Twitter and nothing's going to happen. They're all cowards. They want to hide behind the keyboard and call their friends and say, 'Look what I said to Darius Rucker.'
"I don't let it bother me. It happens, and I've just got to let it go. It's not like it's holding me back from having success."