Former R.E.M drummer Bill Berry is depicted performing at a concert. Berry found his love for drumming at a young age, but his music career really began when he moved to Athens, Georgia. “There was music everywhere. It was like, you turned a corner and you’d see another band,” Berry said. “(Moving to Athens) was what really inspired me to play in a band.” Graphic by Audrey Kennedy
Bill Berry, former drummer of alternative rock band R.E.M, never planned on going into the music business until he moved to Athens, Georgia and fell in love with its vibrant music scene.
Bill Berry didn’t plan on becoming a musician.
When Bill played his first set of drums in the school cafeteria in the fourth grade, he had nothing in mind except getting out of class.
Of all the instruments offered by the school band, the drums were the only ones that he recognized from his favorite record, “Meet the Beatles!”
The record captivated him. He would sit and play along with the bass lines on his mother’s piano, note by note.
He fell in love.
Bill continued to play in the school band until high school, when his family moved to Macon, Georgia. There, he met Mike Mills, a fellow student who played bass guitar.
Bill and Mike started playing in a band which was named after Gandalf’s horse, Shadowfax. They played mostly blues covers and a few originals.
After graduation, Bill and Mike moved to Athens to study at the University of Georgia, and Shadowfax split up.
Bill hoped to graduate with a law degree, but those hopes were short-lived in a place where music seemed to be everywhere.
“Athens was where I started thinking that maybe, I really could be in a band,” Bill said.
While at a party, Bill and Mike met two other musicians and started talking. When they connected through their interest in music, they decided to start a band.
After playing together for a while, Bill and Mike, along with Michael Stipe and Peter Buck, were faced with a conflict. Their performance in school had begun to drop and they had to decide between college and the band.
The four of them decided to take one year off of school and give the band their full attention. Back then, Bill had no idea that they would make it.
“We just kind of fell into it accidentally. None of us really thought that was gonna happen. After we started getting together just to fool around, it clicked,” Bill said. “There was something that worked there, and I don’t have any regrets. I’m glad we did it.”
After a year of hard work, R.E.M was officially signed by its first record label, and Bill had no idea how much was to come.
He had no idea.