Born September 14, 1959, in Aiken, SC; married; wife's name, Robin (a singer); children: Taylor Marie, Sean Thomas, one other son. Addresses: Record company--Capitol Nashville, 3322 West End Ave., Nashville, TN 37203.

Country music listeners sat up and took notice when singer and guitarist John Berry poured his baritone mix of southern soul, soft rock, and country out over the airwaves in 1993. While staunch traditionalists shook their heads at yet another blow to the country music bastion, Berry worked hard to build on a strong fan base from his native Georgia. He has recorded several top-selling albums, and his singles, including "Your Love Amazes Me" and "Standing on the Edge of Goodbye," give added fire to the "New Country" movement.

Berry was born September 14, 1959, in Aiken, South Carolina, but grew up across the state line in Atlanta, Georgia. As a kid, he was drawn to the smooth sounds of rhythm and blues; he counted bands like the Chi-Lites and the Stylistics among his favorites. Interested in becoming a performer, Berry got occasional gigs as a soloist during high school, but music ultimately took the back seat to more practical concerns.

In 1981 Berry hit a low spot. That was the year his mother passed away. Berry's heartfelt loss strengthened his growing dissatisfaction with his job and his part-time musical career. Things got worse after he was involved in a near-tragic motorcycle accident. While doctors feared that he might not walk again, Berry was convinced otherwise. During the months spent in slow, often painful, physical therapy--while working to regain the use of his legs--Berry decided how to turn things around. "That was the same year I turned 22, and when I finally got out of the hospital, I had a direction in my life," the singer told Country Music City News contributor Kimmy Wix. "Music. I always knew music was where I should be, but it took a while for me to make a full-time commitment."

Berry worked on his music for almost ten years, singing in bars and clubs near his home, moving to Athens in 1985, and eventually building a substantial following among students at the University of Georgia. He even started his own record company to produce and distribute recordings of his songs for local fans. Berry and his wife, Robin--who was a backup singer--also hosted benefit concerts for local charities on the land around their home. "I'd starved to death in Atlanta," he recalled in an interview with Country Music's Bob Allen, "but then all of a sudden I got this gig in Athens and went from making a hundred bucks a week ... to making six hundred dollars a week just from my music. And it never went down from there."

Finally, Berry made a move on Music City, where he planned to sign on with Warner Bros. in 1990. But his hopes for national stardom were put on hold when the deal fell through. Not one to give up, Berry quickly rebounded from the disappointment and performed in a showcase at a Nashville club, where representatives from Liberty Records took one listen and were hooked. Liberty signed the singer and released his first album in June of 1993.

The swanky, uptempo "Kiss Me in the Car" joined "A Mind of Her Own" as the first singles released from Berry's self-titled major-label debut. But with their strong soul element, they received only moderate radio airplay and gave a lackluster showing on the country charts. It wasn't until Liberty changed its strategy and presented country radio stations with a ballad cut that listeners tuned in to Berry and his music. Soon he was crisscrossing the United States on promotional tours and concert engagements. Although the thrill of making it in Nashville kept him going, family and friends were concerned about the toll his music was taking on his health. "I just felt like hell and I didn't have any idea why," Berry admitted to Allen. "I had continuous headaches ... and my appetite kept getting worse and worse." At the end of one show in Philadelphia, the singer knew something was wrong when he blacked out during a solo.

Meanwhile, "Your Love Amazes Me" became the biggest hit single off his first album; it topped the country charts, hanging on to the Number One spot for several weeks. And country fans let the newcomer know that they accepted him into the country fold when John Berry went gold--and then platinum.

But the success of his first hit was lost on Berry. On May 10, 1994, as "Your Love Amazes Me" coasted to its Number One spot, Berry was being wheeled into an operating room in Atlanta's Emory University Hospital to undergo a five-and-a-half hour surgical procedure to drain a benign cyst in his brain. Less than a month later, he would take the stage at Nashville's annual Fan Fair to thank his thousands of fans and well-wishers. "I'm not in so much of a hurry anymore," Berry told Billboard's Peter Cronin, explaining how undergoing brain surgery had changed his life. "And I try to spend as much time as I can with my family."

Standing on the Edge, released by Capitol, was Berry's second contribution to country music. Backed by some of the best songwriters in Music City--Vince Gill, Stewart Harris, and Don Schlitz, to name just a few--the album includes "Ninety Miles an Hour," a song that propelled Hank Snow to the top of the charts in 1963. Berry's sophomore effort reflects a variety of genres, from the folk-rock inspired "There's No Cross That Love Won't Bear" to the bluesy "Desperate Measures." Although not achieving the chart success of the earlier track "Your Love Amazes Me," singles from the album sent a clear signal that Berry would be around for a while.

"I like to quote Dolly Parton," the singer told Cronin, responding to the fact that his sound has been tagged "not real country" by tradition-minded country music fans. "'Country is what you are in your heart.'" Berry laughed at the prospect of being labelled a pop singer: "It ain't gonna work, because those aren't the people I sing for. [But] out here where I live, some people don't think I'm country because I just paved my driveway!"

In 1995 Capitol/Nashville rereleased two of the recordings Berry made on his own label for his Georgia fans: Things Are Not the Same and Saddle the Wind. He also recorded an album of Christmas music entitled O Holy Night, which contains such holiday favorites as "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "I'll Be Home for Christmas"--songs he sings as part of a program put on in his hometown church each year.

The following summer Berry released a more middle-of the-road effort with Faces. This recording finds Berry paying tribute to his influences with a mix of folk, rock, and soul. But, as Alanna Nash pointed out in her review in Entertainment Weekly, "it's still the power ballads that measure as a 10 on the Richter scale." Berry, his wife, Robin--who remains one of his backup singers--and his growing family live on a 72-acre farm in the Georgia countryside.

by Pamela Shelton

John Berry's Career

Began playing at college clubs in Athens, GA, 1985; recorded on his own label; signed with Liberty Records; released major-label debut, John Berry, 1993; toured as an opening act with Reba McEntire and Tanya Tucker, fall 1993; signed with Capitol Nashville; released Standing on the Edge, 1995.

John Berry's Awards

Grammy nomination, 1994, for "Your Love Amazes Me"; Horizon Award and top male vocalist nominations, Country Music Association, 1995.

Famous Works

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 2 years ago

Dear Mr. Berry I felt I needed to write & tell you that my husband & I really like your Album "John Berry" with "Your Love Amazes Me" & several other good songs on it. My husband & I sing along with your songs but there's a few that we change a word or 2 & they become a Gospel song & gives such a feeling of praising God! Have you ever thought of doing such a thing? We have listened to your tape on the long drive to work years ago & now when I'm felling low or house cleaning it picks me up when I play it!I know this may sound corny but thats how it is. Sorry to hear about your medical problems, I just said to my husband yesterday about not hearing any music from you in awhile & said I was going to look you up on the computer. May you & yours have a safe & happy life.

over 2 years ago

I saw John and Robin in concert at the Wagon Wheel in Warsaw Indiana three (yes 3!!) different times..the first one I remember you bringing Taylor out on stage at the end and letting her sit at the drums while you sang Rod Stewart's "Forever Young".....had to bring my daughters (then 6 & 3) back with me the second time....postponed the concert quite a few times due to John's vocal surgeries...well worth the wait...John...do you remember my daughter Sami running her fingers through your "spiked hair" giggles and then you let her sit on your lap as you sang "You're love amazes me" to Sami & Erica....that was back in 1997 and they still talk about how amazing that was....the third time I saw you I had won tickets on the radio...the night before Sami's 1st Communion...she again came on stage with you....beaming from ear to ear...thank you John for making some wonderful memories with my girls... I just now made reservations to see you for a 4th time!!! December 3rd at Kalamazoo Michigan......hope to make some new memories with my husband...THANK YOU!!!

almost 3 years ago

Hi John, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area now, but I grew up in Dallas, Texas. Here in the Bay Area, I do volunteer music concerts at various senior citizen retirement homes. I am a singer and I play guitar also. I will be putting on the next volunteer music concert at a senior citizen retirement center on today, Thursday, April 28, 2011. In that program, I will perform two of your songs, If I Had Any Pride Left At All and Change My Mind. I would have loved for you to do a guest appearance at my concert today. Lee.

about 3 years ago

Hi John ...I have 2 of your cd sin my car and i play them all the time I just love your music!...Anna

over 3 years ago

John, We saw your concert last nite in Toccoa.My husband and I just celebrated our anniversary and our gift to each other was tickets to your concert.We loved it. It is so good and refreshing to hear you speak so highly of your family and to give God the glory.My husband and I love each other the Lord so much and to see a concert around family values and the Lord meant a lot. I am from Aiken also,But live close to Toccoa in MT.Airy.I will come to more of your concerts when they are close to this area. I have a Christmas cd from about 5 years ago that we truly enjoy.We love your values. Be Blessed. BJ and Tom

about 4 years ago

I'm a fan of Jhon berry Ilove his music I'm from Austraila. I so wish to by the song that his sings. I was wondering how I could can you help me please my favoirt song is he doesn't know her. Jhon you are a honey keep sing from your heart and touch people were they need it the most deep in there soul you'r a champion.

over 4 years ago

Please come and see John in Cedartown, Ga in Dec. it's a great concert, with most of his hits then in the second half he does Christmas favs, then after a small break he's in the lobby for photos and autographs, great man, great time, great fun and soveineers.

over 5 years ago

I have been going to see John and Robin for many years when they do the annual Christmas show in Macon and I never, never grow tired of them. God created certain angels to sing in his choir and I truly believe with all my heart that John is one of those angels.He has a true God given talent and I feel honored and blessed to be able to spend two hours each year with him. He is so unslefish with his time, staying to the wee hours if necessary to make sure he meets and greets every single person who wants to stay and that makes him feel like family. I hope he continues to be a part of our Christmas tradition for many, many years to come. God bless you and your family John.

over 5 years ago

No one and I do mean NO ONE can sing"O Holy Night" like John does.His voice sends shivers up my spine when he hits the high notes.That man can sing anything. He has such a powerful range, a clear tone to his voice.I just love the man and hope to see him on TV and hear more of his songs. All the very best to you John may you have continued blessings in your life and in your music.!!!!

over 6 years ago

I am a big fan of John Berry's from the moment I heard him sing. He has the voice of an angel!He puts his heart and soul into every word and note he plays and sings! I now know why after reading this biography. It seems to be so dificult to get his music here in Canada for some reason. I look every time I am in a music store but their variety is very small. This Christmas I finally ordered over the internet; this seemed to be the only way to get his beautiful music. I was trying to find one of his hit cd's with the song "There's No Cross That Love Won't Bear" I absolutely love that song, it is beautiful; I always end up with a lump in my throat. I loved every song in the cd the one in which he made in his own home/basement. It was fantastic, what a gem!

over 6 years ago

I am a long time fan and just read his bio. for the first time. No wonder I like his music....the Chi-Lites and Stylistics are my favorites as well! Would love to see a concert in Athens this year. I live in Atlanta (Snellville) so it would be easy to get there. Any upcoming performances? P.S. "O Holy Night".......awesome rendition!