A country singer known for his rich voice and thoughtful perspective as a songwriter, John Berry was born in Aiken, South Carolina on September 14, 1959. He grew up in a musical household, though neither of his parents were especially big fans of country music. His mother favored gospel, while his father enjoyed classical piano, particularly the recordings of Van Cliburn. But Berry grew up on Top 40 radio that beamed out from Atlanta, where he absorbed a wide variety of music in the '70s. He was 12 when he began learning the guitar, and by the time he graduated from high school, he was writing songs and performing in public. In 1981, he was in a serious motorcycle accident that left him with a broken hip and two broken legs. He spent many months in recovery and physical rehabilitation, a situation made all the more difficult by the then-recent death of his mother. But Berry used the time to work on his skills as a guitarist, and by 1983, he had made music a career. He developed a strong regional following in Georgia, where he had settled, and recorded a handful of self-released albums he sold at his live shows. In 1992, Liberty Records signed him to a record deal, and his first album for the label, simply titled John Berry, appeared in June 1993. The song "Kiss Me in the Car" soon became a hit, rising to 22 on the Country Singles charts. But it wasn't until May 1994 that the album's next single, "Your Love Amazes Me," rose to number one on the Country listings. At the time the single topped the charts, Berry was in the hospital, having been diagnosed with a cyst in the third ventricle of his brain. While the condition left him with minor short term memory loss, he otherwise enjoyed a full recovery. (Berry's wife, who performs with him as a backing vocalist, occasionally prompts him when he forgets lyrics on-stage.)
Two more singles from John Berry, "What's in It for Me" and "You and Only You," reached the Country Top Five, and the album was certified platinum. In 1995, Liberty Records' parent company, EMI, moved him from Liberty to their new country imprint, Patriot Records. Berry's Patriot debut, Standing on the Edge, produced two more Top Five Country singles, the title track and "I Think About It All the Time," and the album went gold. Later the same year, the label released Berry's first Christmas album, O Holy Night. Patriot also reissued two of his early independent titles, Saddle the Wind and Things Are Not the Same. But Patriot proved to be a short-lived experiment, and Berry's fourth major-label album, Faces, appeared on Capitol Nashville in September 1996. Faces went gold and produced three hit singles, but Berry and Capitol Nashville didn't see eye to eye on his creative direction, leaving two albums recorded but unreleased. In 1999, Berry signed a new contract with the Disney-affiliated Lyric Street Records, who released Wildest Dreams in September of that year. The album proved to be a commercial disappointment, and Berry left the major labels, signing to the independent Ark 21. Ark 21 released his second Christmas album, My Heart Is Bethlehem, in October 2000, while All the Way to There appeared a year later.
While Berry still had a healthy following as a live act, especially for his annual Christmas concerts, he decided it was time to take control of his recording career. After briefly reuniting with Capitol Nashville to release Christmas Live in 2002, he founded his own label, Clear Sky Records. Through Clear Sky, he released 2004's I Give My Heart and 2008's Those Were the Days, as well as another holiday album, 2003's O Holy Night Live. A committed Christian, Berry recorded an album reflecting his beliefs, Real Man, Real Life, Real Good, for Daywind Records in 2012. The same year, he published a book, Songs & Stories, which featured essays on his best-known songs, as well as a CD with new versions of his classic hits. After launching a successful crowd-funding campaign, Berry returned to the recording studio to record a new album in 2015. What I Love the Most was slated for release through Mansion Entertainment in June 2016. ~ Mark Deming