Hooked on Bluegrass

Hunter Berry

When I was growing up, I lived in a little town called Greeneville Tennessee. Our town was out in the country in a farming community. Cable television did not come out that far. We had just two channels, and if you wanted to change the channel, you had to get up and turn the knob. We would go to my grandma’s house in the city and stay with her for a few days. She did have cable, and every night Hee-Haw would come on. She just loved that show. I would get a little stool, and sit right in front of the television and watch. That is when my love for the fiddle began. For some reason, the fiddle peaked my interests more than any of the other instruments.

When I was eight years old, I got injured playing sports at school, and from that point, I really did not have anything to occupy my time. So when I was nine years old, my father, knowing I was interested in the fiddle, decided to buy me one for Christmas. When I was nine and a half years old, I started taking lessons at the local music store.

The fiddle player I took lesson from at the music store was Benny Sims. Benny was the fiddle player for Flatt and Scruggs from 1948 to 1951. He was the first person to sing lead on Flatt and Scruggs records besides Lester Flatt. That song was Salty Dog Blues. In addition, Benny was the fiddle player on the original recordings of Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Pike County Breakdown, many others. So, I took lessons from Benny for a few years. I then took lessons from David Yates after Benny passed away.

In the hills of eastern Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia there was a LOT of great musicians, and you could find them on every street corner. There were jam sessions every night of the week. That is when I really discovered my love for the music. I think if you enjoy something a lot, really have a love for it, and put yourself in that environment, you will be fine. From there, I started playing in local bands.

I was very lucky, and when I was sixteen years old, I played with Melvin Goins and a band called "Windy Mountain". I played with them for a year, and then when almost seventeen, I played with Doyle Lawson for a year. I started playing with Rhonda Vincent just before I turned eighteen, and have been with her since.

(posted 7/8/2010)

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