Bill Berry

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Bill Berry
Berry performing with R.E.M. in 2008
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Thomas Berry
Born(1958-07-31) July 31, 1958 (age 56)
Duluth, Minnesota, United States
GenresAlternative rock, college rock, jangle pop
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, farmer
InstrumentsDrums, percussion, vocal, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer
Years active1980–1997, sporadic returns since
Associated actsR.E.M., Hindu Love Gods
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For other people named Bill Berry, see Bill Berry (disambiguation).
Bill Berry
Berry performing with R.E.M. in 2008
Background information
Birth nameWilliam Thomas Berry
Born(1958-07-31) July 31, 1958 (age 56)
Duluth, Minnesota, United States
GenresAlternative rock, college rock, jangle pop
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, farmer
InstrumentsDrums, percussion, vocal, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, bass guitar, synthesizer
Years active1980–1997, sporadic returns since
Associated actsR.E.M., Hindu Love Gods

William Thomas "Bill" Berry (born July 31, 1958) is a retired American musician and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the drummer for the alternative rock band R.E.M. In addition to his drumming duties, Berry played many other instruments including guitar, bass guitar, and piano, both for songwriting and on R.E.M. records. After 17 years with the band, Berry left the music industry to become a farmer, and has since maintained a low profile, making sporadic reunions with R.E.M. and appearing on other artists' records.

Early years[edit]

William Thomas Berry was born in Duluth, Minnesota, the fifth child of Don and Anna Berry. At three years old, Berry moved with his family to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, where they would remain for the next seven years. In 1968, they were on the move again, this time to Sandusky, Ohio.

In 1972, the Berry family made their final move, to Macon, Georgia, just in time for Bill to start high school at Mount de Sales Academy. It was there that he met bassist Mike Mills, and they played together in several different bands. Their first attempt at a career in music was short-lived. He and Mills decided to make money by getting day jobs. They rented an apartment on Arlington Place in Macon and Bill landed a job at the Paragon booking agency next door.

Berry and Mills moved to Athens, Georgia in 1978, where they met Michael Stipe and Peter Buck. Prior to dropping out, Berry studied pre-law at the University of Georgia.[1]

R.E.M. years (1980–1997)[edit]

Main article: R.E.M.

R.E.M. was formed in 1980. In addition to his duties as a drummer, Berry contributed occasional guitar, bass, mandolin, vocals, keyboards and piano on studio tracks. In concert, he sometimes performed on bass, and supplied regular backing vocals. Berry also made notable songwriting contributions, particularly for "Everybody Hurts" and "Man on the Moon", both from Automatic for the People. Other Berry songs included "Perfect Circle", "Driver 8", "Cant Get There from Here" and "I Took Your Name". The song "Leave" was also written by Berry for R.E.M.'s 1996 album New Adventures in Hi-Fi, which was his last album with the band.

Berry was also responsible for toning down the lyrics of the song "Welcome to the Occupation." Stipe's original lyric was "Hang your freedom fighters" which, given the Reagan administration's active support for the contra "freedom fighters" in Nicaragua, sounded very violent and militant, although Stipe himself countered that the line could be taken multiple ways ("hang" as in either "lynch" or "frame on a wall"). Berry's objection ultimately led the line to be changed to "hang your freedom higher."

During 1984 Berry also was drummer for the impromptu Hindu Love Gods, which featured his R.E.M. bandmates Mike Mills, Peter Buck, and rocker Warren Zevon, and also Bryan Cook.

On-stage collapse and leaving R.E.M.[edit]

In 1995, at the Patinoire Auditorium in Lausanne, Switzerland, Berry collapsed on stage during an R.E.M. show from a ruptured brain aneurysm. He recovered and rejoined the band, but left in October 1997, saying that he no longer had the drive or enjoyment level to be in the band, and that he wanted a career change, he explained on VH-1's Behind The Music:

I didn't wake up one day and decide, 'I just can't stand these guys anymore' or anything. I feel like I'm ready for a life change. I'm still young enough that I can do something else. I've been pounding the tubs since I was nine years old ... I'm ready to do something else.

Acquiescing to Berry's wishes, R.E.M. announced that it would continue as a three-piece outfit. They continued to tour with several accompanying musicians, including long-time sidemen Ken Stringfellow and Scott McCaughey and employed Joey Waronker and Bill Rieflin as live drummers.


Berry left the music business and became a farmer, working on his hay farm in Farmington, Georgia, near Athens.

His musical activities after leaving R.E.M. have been sporadic, but did include recording for the Tourette Syndrome Charity Album Welcome Companions in 2000. He is also an avid golfer.[2]

Berry has had several brief reunions with his former bandmates, including one song during an concert of October 10, 2003 in Raleigh, North Carolina, several songs at the October 2005 wedding of band roadie DeWitt Burton, and performances in September 2006 at the band's induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (as well as an appearance at an R.E.M. tribute night at the 40 Watt Club in Athens a few days before the induction) and in March 2007 at the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He also played drums and sang on R.E.M.'s cover of "#9 Dream", a John Lennon cover recorded to benefit Darfur. Nonetheless, Peter Buck and Michael Stipe said that Berry remained firm on his decision to retire from the group, which has since disbanded.[citation needed]

Prior to the group's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Berry granted his first interview in several years, discussing life after retirement. "It's a great chance to get back together and perform with R.E.M., which I always loved doing," he said. "This opportunity also does not require me to climb onto (a) bus or plane to do it again and again for several consecutive months."[3]

Personal life[edit]

In 2003 Berry and his girlfriend, Cybele, had a son, Owen.[3]


With R.E.M.[edit]

Further information: R.E.M. discography

Without members of R.E.M.[edit]

13111"My Bible Is the Latest TV Guide"/"Things I'd Like to Say"1989Solo projectSolo single released by Jefferson Holt's Dog Gone Records in 1989. The a-side is a Berry original credited to "Stashus Mute"; the b-side is a cover of the New Colony Six song from the 1968 album Revelations. "13111" is a translation of "Bill" into numerals.
Bill Berryn/aDecember 17, 1997DrumsBerry drummed with friends at a charity event for Tourette Syndrome at the Morton Theatre. After the show, he auctioned off his drum set.
Bill Berry"Riviera Nap"2000Co-writing, drumsBerry and fellow Athenian Davis Causey contributed this song to the Tourette Syndrome benefit compilation Welcome Companions in the summer of 2000. He also drummed on three tracks by Sherry Joyce.
Rick FowlerBack on My Good Foot2008DrumsThe two previously collaborated on the Tourette Syndrome Charity album.
Love Tractorn/a1980DrumsBill joined the Tractor for five months and played with them at the same time as R.E.M. He ultimately chose the latter because they were willing to quit school to play music.
Love TractorLove Tractor1982WritingWhen the Tractor's self-titled debut album was released, it included the Berry composition "Motorcade". The album was re-released two years later as 'Til the Cows Come Home.
Love TractorThe Sky at Night2001PercussionBill rejoined the line-up as a percussionist during their 2001 reunion album, playing on Bright.
Michelle MaloneNew Experience1988Drums"Plays on into the Night"
Ranan/aJuly 2001ProductionBerry produced demos of this New Jersey band, including the songs "Day She Went Away", "[Love It] Automatic", "Not So Mopso", "Ring in the Sand", and "So Long Edgewood".
Widespread Panicn/aMarch 1, 2000 – Athens, United StatesDrumsBill sat in with this band for a benefit playing "Ride Me High", Drums", "Time Is Free", and "Climb to Safety". Mike Mills joined the band the following night.
WUOGerzn/a1979DrumsA band made up of fellow University of Georgia students who were mainly from the campus radio station WUOG.

With Peter Buck and Mike Mills[edit]

[Frat party band]n/a?Drums, guitar, bassBacking up a stripper for an hour at a frat party when the tape deck broke.
Hindu Love Godsn/aFebruary 14, 1984 – Athens, United StatesDrums, guitar, bassThis ad hoc band formed with local pianist and singer Bryan Cook of Time Toy on a break from R.E.M. Their first gig was at the 40 Watt Club. Set: "Bangkok", "With a Girl Like You", "I'm Through with You", "Walk, Don't Run", "Personality Crisis", "Narrator", "Pipeline", "Needles and Pins", "California Sun", "Government Center", "Hippy Hippy Shake", "(I'm Not Your) Steppin' Stone", "Permanent Vacation", "Jump", and "Color Me Impressed".
Hindu Love Godsn/aFebruary 29, 1984 – Athens, United StatesDrums, guitar, bassAnother performance at the 40 Watt, with opening act Wheel O'Cheese (a pseudonym for Love Tractor.) This time the line-up was augmented by Michael Stipe and singer Warren Zevon. Michael played drums on "Rebel Rebel" and sang from "Little America" on. Bryan Cook only sang on "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight". Set: "Up on the Cross", "Boom Boom Mancini", "Trouble Waiting to Happen", "Werewolves of London", "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight", "Little America", "Second Guessing", "Gloria", "Rebel Rebel", and "Wild Thing.
Hindu Love Godsn/aJune 1, 1984 – Athens, United StatesDrums, guitar, bassPerformance at the Bourbon Street Club. Set: "Color Me Impressed", "White Light/White Heat", "There She Goes Again", "Government Center", "Broken Whisky Glass", "Little Willie", "Authority Song", "Personality Crisis", "Hang on Sloopy", and "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight".
Hindu Love Gods"Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight"/"Narrator"1986Drums, guitar, bassThe Hindus went to John Keane Studio in 1984 to record this single. The a-side is an Easybeats cover, the b-side is a Bill Berry original that pre-dates R.E.M. IRS released the material two years later with a cover painted by Bill.
Hindu Love Godsn/aJanuary 20, 1986 – Athens, United StatesDrums, guitar, bassThe band reformed for a benefit concert at the 40 Watt for recently deceased Minutemen guitarist D. Boon. R.E.M. performed a set and were joined in their first encore by Cook. Stipe sat out "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight". Set: "Strange", "Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight", and "Pills."
Hindu Love GodsHindu Love Gods1990Drums, guitar, bassWhile recording the sessions for Warren Zevon's Sentimental Hygiene album, the guys also cut several blues covers and a Prince cover. The material was released as an album by Warren's label, Giant, in 1990. Tracks: "Walking Blues", "Traveling Riverside Blues", "Raspberry Beret", "Crosscut Saw", "Junko Partner", "Mannish Boy", "Wang Dang Doodle", "Battleship Chains", "I'm a One Woman Man", and "Vigilante Man".
Hindu Love Gods"Raspberry Beret"/"Wang Dang Doodle"/"Mannish Boy"1990Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the self-titled album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Indigo GirlsIndigo Girls1990Drums, guitar, bassOn the track "Tried to Be True". Michael sings on "Kid Fears".
Southern Gentlemenn/aMay 11, 1988 – Athens, United StatesDrums, guitar, bassThe instrumentalists from R.E.M. joined Roger McGuinn of The Byrds in the middle of his set at the Uptown Lounge. Set: "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere", "Mr. Spaceman", "The Bells of Rhymney", "Mr. Tambourine Man", "Turn! Turn! Turn!", "Eight Miles High", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", and "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better". McGuinn had guested at several R.E.M. shows as well.
The SpongetonesTorn Apart1984ClappingOn the track "Shock Therapy", with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter.
Nikki SuddenThe Jewel Thief1991Drums, guitar, bassOn the tracks "I Belong to You", "Alley of the Street", and "Jigsaw Blues".
Nikki Sudden"I Belong to You"/"Alley of the Street"/"Jigsaw Blues"1991Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the album.
The Troggs"Don't You Know"/"Nowhere Road"February 2, 1992Drums, guitar, bass, co-writingSingle from Athens, Andover.
The TroggsAthens, AndoverMarch 23, 1992Drums, guitar, bass, co-writingBerry, Buck and Mills, along with Peter Holsapple, act as a backing band to Reg Presley on this album and co-wrote the track Nowhere Road. Recorded at John Keane Studio in August and September 1991. Tracks: "Crazy Annie", "Together", "Tuned into Love", "Déjà Vu", "Nowhere Road", "Dust Bowl", "I'm in Control", "Don't You Know", "What's Your Game", "Suspicious," and "Hot Stuff". R.E.M. briefly considered recording an EP named "The Godlike Genius of the Troggs as Presented by R.E.M.".
The Troggs"Together"/"Crazy Annie"/"Turned into Love"1992Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the album.
The TroggsAthens and Beyond1999Drums, guitar, bassRe-release of Athens, Andover with bonus tracks.
Warren ZevonSentimental Hygiene1987Drums, guitar, bass, co-writingThis was touted as a comeback album for Zevon and featured several guest stars in addition to R.E.M., such as fellow Duluth native Bob Dylan, Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Neil Young. The entire band performs on the song Bad Karma, with Michael singing backup and playing shears as a musical instrument. All three members perform on Boom Boom Mancini", "Detox Mansion", "Bad Karma", and "Even a Dog Can Shake Hands", the latter of which they co-wrote with Zevon. Peter and Bill play on "Sentimental Hygiene" and "The Heartache".
Warren Zevon"Sentimental Hygiene"/"The Factory"/"Leave My Monkey Alone"August 1987Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon"Bad Karma"/"Boom Boom Mancini"/"Leave My Monkey Alone"November 1987Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon"Reconsider Me"/"The Factory"/"Bad Karma"February 1988Drums, guitar, bassSingle from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon"Splendid Isolation"/"Even a Dog Can Shake Hands"/"Bad Karma"/"Gridlock"1989Drums, guitar, bass, co-writingSingle from the album. Some versions do not have the last two tracks.
Warren Zevon"Even a Dog Can Shake Hands"1999Drums, guitar, bass, co-writingUsed as the theme song to the television series Action.

With Peter Buck[edit]

Doubting ThomasBlue Angel1993Drums, guitarOn one track.
Tony TrischkaWorld Turning1993Bouzouki, percussionOn "Alfa Ya Ya" and "If Animals Could Talk."

Reunions with R.E.M.[edit]

Performances of the three-piece R.E.M. reunited with their original drummer.

n/aOctober 10, 2003 – Raleigh, United StatesAfter walking across the stage to shake Joey Waronker's hand on August 29, 1999, at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta,[4] Bill walked onstage at the Alltel Pavilion at Walnut Creek in Raleigh, North Carolina to sing on "Radio Free Europe" and drum on "Permanent Vacation".
n/aAugust 10, 2005 – Athens, United StatesThe band reformed to play a friend and guitar tech Dewitt Burton's wedding reception at Kingpins Bowl and Brew in Athens, Georgia. The set: "Sitting Still", "(Don't Go Back To) Rockville", "Wolves, Lower", "Begin the Begin", "The One I Love", "Permanent Vacation", and "Radio Free Europe", with a short instrumental interlude between the last two numbers.
n/aMarch 1, 2006 – Athens, United StatesAt a Minus 5 show in the Georgia Theatre, Bill, Mike, and Michael joined Peter, Scott McCaughey, and Bill Rieflin for an impromptu performance of "Country Feedback". Bill played bass, with Mike on keyboards.
2006 Christmas singleSeptember 12, 2006 – Athens, United StatesThe band reforms to play at the "Finest Worksongs: Athens Bands Play the Music of R.E.M." tribute at the 40 Watt, playing "Begin the Begin" and "So. Central Rain (I'm Sorry)". Proceeds went to the Community Connection and Family Connection/Communities in Schools charities.
n/aSeptember 9, 2006 – Atlanta, GeorgiaThe band was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame at the Georgia World Congress Center. They performed "Begin the Begin", "Losing My Religion", and "Man on the Moon". Bill, Peter, Mike, and Scott McCaughey also accompanied Gregg Allman on a performance of "Midnight Rider" to round out the show.
n/aMarch 12, 2007 – New York City, United StatesFor in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, the band plays "Begin the Begin", "Gardening at Night", "Man on the Moon" (with Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam), and "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (with Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye).
#9 DreamMarch 17, 2007While preparing for their performance at the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony, the original four members of R.E.M. recorded this John Lennon song in John Keane Studio, with production by Jacknife Lee. The song was released as a single on March 17, 2007 and was the first track to be released from the benefit compilation Instant Karma: The Amnesty International Campaign to Save Darfur, released on June 12, 2007.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rock Athens: Classic Profile: Athens attorney committed to living life with passion 07/09/02". OnlineAthens. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  2. ^ "R.E.M. comes 'Around' full circle". October 24, 2004. Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  3. ^ a b "R.E.M.: The Hall: Frenzy of fame contributes to former drummer's shyness". Retrieved 2011-10-02. 
  4. ^ Buckley, David. R.E.M.|Fiction: An Alternative History, Virgin Books, 2002 ISBN 1-85227-927-3. Peter Buck:

    "As much as I wanted to see him, it puts real pressure on him if I ask him to come and do something. We invited him to the show, and considered asking him to play, but Mike said "No, he would stress about that for three months beforehand and then he probably wouldn't show up." So, we invited him to the show, and he stood at the side of the stage. Then people in the audience saw him and shouted "Hey Bill," and Bill waved and after the song [Find the River] was finished he walked out on the stage, hugged Mike, Michael, and me, then walked over to Joey, and shook his hand.. and the whole audience was going insane of course.. then he waved to the crowd and walked off stage. I think he got in his car and drove home, because I didn't' see him after the show."

    Michael dedicated the following song, At My Most Beautiful, to him.

External links[edit]