Published In The Hamilton Spectator Thursday, March 16, 1996

 

BERRY LUCKY

 

BY NICK KREWEN

 

If you want to see the walking definition of a miracle, look no further than country singing sensation JOHN BERRY.

The Grammy-nominated man with the golden tenor who has just released his second major label album Standing On The Edge  on Patriot Records has survived two serious bouts of health problems during his 35 years that threatened not only his livelihood, but his life.

In 1981, Berry had a serious motorcycle accident and was told by doctors he'd never walk again. He proved them wrong.

Last year he suffered his most serious challenge. The same week his second child was born, and his song "Your Love Amazes Me" hit #1, a celtoid cyst was discovered on top of Berry's spinal column. He was rushed to the hospital, where the cyst was drained through a lovely little process known as a craniotomy, which does not employ an anesthetic.

"I didn't feel well. I lost 45 pounds, and my weight had dropped to 155," Berry recalls. "I couldn't eat. I was nauseous. In Philadelphia, I was feeling so bad. I was in a hot tub for two minutes, and I couldn't deal with the heat. On stage, I did the song `Please Come To Boston', and I couldn't remember whether I had finished it, so I asked the band backstage."

Berry said he had one big concern about the surgery.

"I was afraid of waking up and not being the same person I was," says Berry, born in Aiken, South Carolina but raised in Atlanta.

"In a lot of ways, I did wake up different. I'm a lot more emotional than I was. I can't watch Little House On The Prairie  or The Price Is Right  on TV anymore. Somebody wins and I fall apart."

Nowadays, John Berry is feeling much better.

"I'm doing real well," said Berry from a tour stop last week in Sudbury. "It's pretty well cleaned up. I still have a little problem here and there, but not that much."

Even with his medical misfortunes and the death in November of his father, Berry says 1994 was a positive year, especially in terms of his career. He had four top five hits with "Your Love Amazes Me", "Kiss Me In The Car", "What's In It For Me" and "You And Only You." His self-titled debut hit gold in both Canada and in the U.S.

His new album Standing On The Edge  has received a warm welcome, and Berry was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Vocal Country, which he lost to VINCE GILL.

"I'm still new," says Berry about the Grammy. "I'd have been pretty surprised if I walked off with that thing."

Berry's not that new. Before he signed with Patriot last year, he released six albums on his own around Athens Georgia, where he resides.

"That was my training ground," said Berry, who will join CLINT BLACK's tour this summer.

"The first four sucked pretty much. The fifth one, Things Are Not The Same, started a real direction. The sixth one, Saddle The Wind, nailed it. That's where I learned who I was."

Berry says the preparation paid off when he tackled Nashville.

"I went to Nashville and didn't let anybody mess with my sound. I didn't go to Nashville and say, `Somebody please show me what I'm best at. Help me develop what I'm doing here.' By the time I hooked up with the record company I knew what I was doing."

He says he's enjoying the 40-date Canadian tour as MICHELLE WRIGHT's special guest, and is impressed by the wide age range of the audience that comes to the show.

"Folks bring their kids, and the older kids bring their parents, and it's just great. They just thoroughly enjoy it. Sometimes with American audiences, you get a lot of the younger folks, but you don't get the some of the older folks. I don't know why that is. Maybe they're afraid of the volume."

When he's not on the road, Berry gets involved with charity work. He helped launch the Coors Light Adult Literacy Program last September, and with his wife ROBIN organizes an annual event called Country In The City, which benefits Georgia's Extra Special People foundation.

Berry estimates he received thousands of letters during his illness, and hopes he'll never have to relive his experience again.

"I don't recommend brain surgery unless you need it," he says.

-30-

DISCOGRAPHY

1990 -- Things Are Not The Same

1992 -- Saddle In The Wind

1993 -- John Berry -- Patriot

1994 -- Standing On The Edge

1995 -- O Holy Night

1996 -- Faces

1998 -- Better Than A Biscuit (unreleased)

1999 --Wildest Dreams -- Lyric Street

#1 HITS

1994 -- "Your Love Amazes Me"

COLLABORATIONS

1995 -- Various Artists, Amazing Grace

 

FAST FACTS

THANKS: Marianne Girard, Doug Foley

©1996, 1999 -- Nick Krewen, Octopus Media Ink

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