Nashville’s Music Community Comes Together For John Berry Benefit Show

John Berry. Photo credit: Daniel Boerner

In the mid-’90s, there were few male vocalists with the raw soul and power of John Berry, who notched the Grammy-nominated chart-topper “Your Love Amazes Me” in 1994, following it with hits including “Standing On The Edge Of Goodbye” and “She’s Taken A Shine.” Since then, Berry has released 10 projects to date, and toured relentlessly. 2018 was no exception. In July, he released “Beautifully Broken” as the title track to the film of the same name. In October, he went into the studio to record the six-song EP Thomas Road, which reunited him with producer Chuck Howard. He also embarked on his 22nd annual Christmas Songs and Stories Tour.

But along the way, Berry was battling mounting vocal problems.

“Staring in October, I had this little annoying stick in my throat. It felt just like if you had the skin of a Spanish peanut stuck in your throat,” he tells MusicRow. “And I couldn’t get rid of it. I just thought I had a swollen tonsil or something. We got home from the tour and [Berry’s wife] Robin was like, ‘We gotta go see an ENT.’ He looked down my throat, then looked at me and said, ‘I’m a no-BS kinda guy. You have cancer.’”

On Jan. 22, 2019, Berry and Robin shared a video on social media, revealing Berry’s throat cancer diagnosis to his fans. On Feb. 13, Berry began treatment–a grueling seven-week period which included 35 radiation treatments and seven chemotherapy treatments.

“They did a biopsy on the tonsils and they knew there was a tumor on one of them. The other tonsil had a tumor inside, so I had a tonsillectomy.”

The radiation and chemotherapy were successful; April 9 marked Berry’s final day of treatments.

“It was a tough seven weeks, but I’m glad and grateful to be here,” Berry says.

Tonight (April 23) Berry will welcome an assemblage of country performers he has met and worked with throughout his 25-year career to Nashville’s City Winery for the benefit show “We All Come Together” to help raise funds for Berry’s medical treatment, as well as for the nonprofit Music Health Alliance, which aids musicians and music industry members with health insurance needs. The show will also include a silent auction.

Vince Gill, Travis Tritt, Trace Adkins, Bryan White, Clint Black, Mark Wills, Tracy Lawrence, Jimmy Fortune, Jeannie Seely (with Tim Atwood), Darryl Worley, Exile, Anita Cochran, Suzy Bogguss, the Oak Ridge Boys, Radney Foster, Shenandoah, Tim Rushlow and more will all take the stage.

“A lot of folks kept asking ‘What can we do? How can we help?’ and City Winery offered their facility, which is amazing,” Berry notes. “Once everybody knows it’s cancer and major medical things like this, there’s always needs. We’re no different. So [Berry’s manager] Brian Smith and [publicist] Bev Moser, they put this together with City Winery and some other folks that were involved. They started inviting people and the guest artist list, I’m astounded!”

Berry has known one of the evening’s guests, fellow country entertainer Travis Tritt, since their early club days in Georgia.

“We were playing clubs in Atlanta,” he recalls. “He was playing at Miss Kitty’s and we would play there. Then Travis got a record deal and, of course, we had heard a lot of the songs that he put on his debut album. He was playing them there at the club. And “Country Club” was a big hit [the track reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart in 1989]. He did that song at the club before it ever came out on the radio and my wife said ‘That’s gonna be a big ol’ song,’ and sure enough it was. Travis has just always been very kind to me and he’s invited me to open two shows for him here and there. Always been a lot of fun. Good guy.”

“I don’t know anyone that hasn’t been affected by cancer in some way,” Tritt says. “Knowing that friends and family have your back is an important factor in fighting this disease. On this night, John’s friends and musical family will come together to show John and the world that we have his back and he is not fighting this alone.”

Berry says Tritt is slated to perform his 2000 hit, “It’s A Great Day To Be Alive,” and he hopes to sneak in a collaboration of “Georgia On My Mind” with his fellow Georgian. Berry could even offer a rendition of his own hits.

“I’m hoping to do a song or two as the night goes. We’ll see how I’m doin’.” he says.

Later this week will mark Berry’s first official return to the stage since his treatments, as he visits Blue Mountain College in Blue Mountain, Mississippi to do a speaking engagement and offer a few songs. In May, he will open a few shows for Clint Black and Trace Adkins on their The Hits. Hats. History. Tour.

“That’s going to be a lot of fun to go and open for them, to just go and do 20 minutes with my guitar,” Berry says.

But tonight’s show at City Winery will be about celebrating life, love and music with some of his best friends in the industry.

“It’s going to be awesome. I told everybody on my team, please just make sure there’s boxes of tissues everywhere. I’ll be in puddles,” Berry said.

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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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