Weekly visits with music legends Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl, thanks to the long-running variety show “Hee Haw,” helped inspire Elizabethton fiddler Hunter Berry to begin playing the fiddle at age 9 while growing up in the Siam community.
Berry said he got interested in taking up the fiddle by watching other musicians perform on “Hee Haw” while visiting with his grandmother, Georgia Ford.
“My family only got a few channels, but she had cable television,” he recalled.
Once he picked up a fiddle, he never looked back and has received numerous accolades for his music. In a couple of weeks, the accomplished young artist will be returning once again to “The Fold” for a special show.
Hunter Berry and Friends featuring Rhonda Vincent and The Rage will perform at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 24, at the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, Va. Doors will open at 2 p.m.
“This performance is going to be recorded live,” Berry said.
As a result, one popular activity at The Fold will be curtailed for the evening.
“There will not be any dancing,” Berry explained.
There will certainly be some high-energy bluegrass music, and the entire performance will be released at a future date.
The late Benny Sims gave Berry his first fiddle lessons.
“At the time, he was just the fellow who gave me fiddle lessons,” Berry said.
Only later did Berry begin to learn about the many accomplishments and achievements to his teacher’s credit.
“In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Sims performed with the Foggy Mountain Boys,” Berry said.
The Foggy Mountain Boys was founded by bluegrass legends Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and many music historians regard the group as one of the premier bluegrass acts in the history of the genre.
Later, Berry also took fiddling lessons from Johnson City teacher David Yates.
He said Sims and Yates provided his only formal instruction.
“Most of my learning came from jamming with other musicians in the region,” Berry said. “We’re really blessed with a region rich in musical talent.”
Berry has been a final nominee for the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Fiddle Player of the Year award and has been a multiple winner of the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America’s Fiddle Player of the Year award.
In 2007, he released a critically acclaimed solo project, “Wow Baby,” which featured some of the best musicians in bluegrass.
Berry has performed with such artists as Melvin Goins and Windy Mountain, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver and, for about the past 12 years, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage.
“I was only 17 when I started playing for her,” Berry said.
These days, Vincent’s not just an employer — she’s also his mother-in-law.
Berry married her oldest daughter, Sally, three-and-a-half years ago. His wife teaches vocals at East Tennessee State University, where Berry also provides instruction in the Bluegrass, Old-time, Country and Celtic music program.
He pointed out that ETSU is one of the few colleges to offer a major and a minor in this music studies program.
Berry, the son of Sherry Berry and the late Clarence Berry, may have inherited his musical talents.
“My mother plays piano, and my father played the autoharp,” Berry said.
Berry also has two siblings, sister Susie Berry and brother Dan Ryan.
He is looking forward to his show at The Carter Family Fold, which will be held at the Carter Family Memorial Music Center, 3449 A.P Carter Highway, Hiltons, Va.
A special guest will be Adam Steffey, the 2013 IBMA Mandolin Player of the Year.
Admission for children 6 and under is free and $1 for kids ages 7 to 11.
ETSU students with a college identification is $5. Admission for those 12 and older is $10.
Berry invites the public to come out and enjoy an afternoon of bluegrass music that will be recorded for his next solo project.