Musicians Hunter and Sally Berry reflect on their relationship, art
Published 2:55 pm Wednesday, April 29, 2015
It’s safe to say that at Carter County residents Hunter and Sally Berry’s wedding, their something blue was bluegrass.
Throughout their marriage, they have learned to plant the seed of love and tune out all the negativity.
Their love story began when Hunter was hired to play fiddle for Sally’s mother, bluegrass singer and musician Rhonda Vincent, in early 2002.
“The first time I ever saw him was at a show where he was playing with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver,” Sally said. “He had this bright purple suit on and these white shoes, and I thought, ‘Why do you have to wear that?’ ”
While his attire clued her into the fact that he has a great sense of humor, she didn’t know him very well at that time.
A few months later, the two had their first interaction while on a Carribean cruise.
“I was 15 at the time,” Sally said. “He was 18. I had seen him around and just considered him an employee of my mother.”
Once they were able to actually speak to each other there, she was immediately drawn to him.
“We just really clicked,” Sally said. “We talked a lot.”
The memory is pitched in laughter for both of them.
“We laughed the whole day,” Sally said.
It was at that moment Hunter started to see how his music career and love life might not be able to exist in harmony.
“I was really conscious about the fact that this is my boss’s daughter,” he said. “Musicians don’t have the best reputation anyway. I had only been working with her mom for two months. I knew that wasn’t enough time for her mom to get to know me and be confident about who I am.”
When Sally’s mom became aware they were talking and that there was the possibility of the two being more than friends, “She didn’t care for it,” Hunter said.
Vincent sat Hunter down to give him an ultimatum.
“She told me that it was either her daughter or my job,” Hunter said. “I couldn’t have both.”
Sally understood when Hunter chose his music career.
“I lived in Missouri at that time,” she said. “So even if he had said, ‘I pick her!’ he wouldn’t have been able to see me anyway.”
Vincent didn’t come around until a few months later, when Sally visited her mother and Hunter on the road in California.
“She was flying in at 8 o’clock in the morning, and there I was, up at 7 a.m. showering,” Hunter said.
“When he was 18, you could not get him out of bed before noon,” Sally said.
Sally’s mother was impressed by Hunter’s sudden burst of motivation the day her daughter arrived, Sally said.
“There he was all showered with his cologne on and all dressed up for me,” Sally said.
While music is the tie that initially bound them together, it also has a knack for keeping them apart. Hunter and Sally have been a couple for 13 years, but they’ve spent much of that time apart with Hunter always on the road with Vincent.
Hunter eventually moved to Sally’s hometown of Kirksville, Mo., to be closer to her while she finished high school. Then he followed her to Kentucky, where she went to college for two years, he said.
Finally, Hunter was able to bring Sally to his home region through East Tennessee State University’s Bluegrass, Old-Time and Country Music program.
“I went through the program, and it was a wonderful experience,” Sally said. “Even if you don’t plan on doing it for a living, it’s just a lot of fun. I learned so much.”
Sally gushed over the quality of education she received and the staff involved in making the program successful.
Now, Sally and Hunter both play a role in making that program a success by working with students one-on-one. Hunter teaches fiddle, and Sally is a vocal instructor.
“It’s so exciting to be a part of that program,” Sally said. “From there, my sister and I had a band for three years while we were in college.”
Sally got a big dose of on-the-road life with that band, which was called Next Best Thing. It made her realize how important finding a sense of home was to her.
Sally was happy to make the move to where she now calls home, and where Hunter, who grew up in Gap Creek, has always called home.
“During the time I was traveling around, the more I was gone from here and the other places I saw, it really showed me what all we have in East Tennessee and this entire region,” Hunter said.
Just as they are with each other, they are in love with living near Watauga Lake in Elizabethton with their two dogs, Dolly and Waylon, and their pet pig, Merle Hoggard.
The Berrys are also active members of Siam Baptist Church. They like to play music for church or any kind of fundraisers.
“We are really looking forward to what the Lord has in store for us,” Hunter said. “I have no intentions of leaving here.”
“I don’t either,” Sally said. “But you never know what the Lord will call you to do.”