William "Bill" Thomas Berry (born July 31, 1958, Duluth, Minnesota) is an American former musician and multi-instrumentalist, best known as the drummer in alternative rock band R.E.M. for 17 years, before retiring from the group and becoming a farmer. Apart from his drumming duties, he played many other instruments including guitar, bass guitar, piano, both for songwriting and on R.E.M. records. After his retirement from the band he has maintained a low profile, making sporadic reunions with R.E.M. and appearing on other artists' records.



Berry was born in Duluth, the fifth child of Don and Anna. 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, on the banks of Lake Erie.

In 1972, the Berry family made their final move, to Macon, Georgia, literally just in time 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. "I graduated high school in 1976 and put down my sticks and sold my drums," he explained.[citation needed] He and Mills decided to make money by getting day jobs. They rented an apartment on Arlington Street 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.

R.E.M. years (1980–1997)Edit

Main article: R.E.M.

R.E.M. was thus 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". Fittingly, the song "Leave" from R.E.M.'s 1996 album New Adventures in Hi-Fi was also written by Berry, 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 and Peter Buck and rocker Warren Zevon.

Berry married his girlfriend of two years, Mari, on March 22, 1986. They divorced eleven years later. They had no children.

In 1995, at the Patinoire Auditorium in Lausanne, Switzerland, Berry collapsed on stage during an R.E.M. show from a 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. In an MTV interview, he explained:

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. I'm at a point in my life where some of my priorities have shifted. I loved my seventeen years with R.E.M., but I’m ready to reflect, assess, and move on to a different phase of my life. The four of us will continue our close friendship, and I look forward to hearing their future efforts as the world’s biggest R.E.M. fan.

Acquiescing to Berry's wishes, and relieving him from the guilt of triggering a breakup, R.E.M. announced that it would continue as a three-piece outfit.


Berry thus left the music business and became a farmer, working on his hay farm near Watkinsville, Georgia.

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. He is the father to a son, Owen, born 2003.[1][2]

Berry has had several brief reunions with his former bandmates, including one song on October 10, 2003, concert 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.

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." [2]

Side projectsEdit

Without members of R.E.M.Edit

Artist Release Year Role Notes
13111 My Bible Is the Latest TV Guide/Things I'd Like to Say 1989 Solo project Solo 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 Berry n/a December 17, 1997 Drums Berry drums with friends at a charity event for Tourette's Syndrome at the Morton Theater. After the show, he auctions off his drum set.
Bill Berry Riviera Nap 2000 Co-writing, drums Berry and fellow Athenian Davis Causey contributed this song to the Tourette's Syndrome benefit compilation Welcome Companions in the summer of 2000. He also drummed on three tracks by Sherry Joyce.
Rick Fowler Back on My Good Foot 2008 Drums The two previously collaborated on the Tourette Syndrome Charity album.
Love Tractor n/a 1980 Drums Bill 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 Tractor Love Tractor 1982 Writing When 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 Tractor The Sky at Night 2001 Percussion Bill rejoined the line-up as a percussionist during their 2001 reunion album, playing on Bright.
Michelle Malone New Experience 1988 Drums Plays on Into the Night.
Rana n/a July 2001 Production Berry 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 Panic n/a March 1, 2000 - Athens, United States Drums Bill 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.
WUOGerz n/a 1980 Drums A band made up of fellow University of Georgia students, named after the campus radio station WUOG.

With Peter Buck and Mike MillsEdit

Artist Release Year Role Notes
[Frat party band] n/a ? Drums, guitar, bass Backing up a stripper for an hour at a frat party when the tape deck broke.
Hindu Love Gods n/a February 14, 1984 - Athens, United States Drums, guitar, bass This 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; Color Me Impressed
Hindu Love Gods n/a February 29, 1984 - Athens, United States Drums, guitar, bass Another 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; Wild Thing
Hindu Love Gods n/a June 1, 1984 - Athens, United States Drums, guitar, bass Performance 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; Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight
Hindu Love Gods Gonna Have a Good Time Tonight/Narrator 1986 Drums, guitar, bass The 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 Gods n/a January 20, 1986 - Athens, United States Drums, guitar, bass The 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; Pills
Hindu Love Gods Hindu Love Gods 1990 Drums, guitar, bass While 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; Vigilante Man.
Hindu Love Gods Raspberry Beret/Wang Dang Doodle/Mannish Boy 1990 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the self-titled album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Indigo Girls Indigo Girls 1990 Drums, guitar, bass On the track Tried to Be True. Michael sings on Kid Fears.
Southern Gentlemen n/a May 11, 1988 - Athens, United States Drums, guitar, bass The 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"; "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better". McGuinn has guested at several R.E.M. shows as well.
The Spongetones Torn Apart 1984 Clapping On the track "Shock Therapy", with Don Dixon and Mitch Easter.
Nikki Sudden The Jewel Thief 1991 Drums, guitar, bass On 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 1991 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the album.
The Troggs Don't You Know/Nowhere Road February 2, 1992 Drums, guitar, bass, co-writing Single from Athens, Andover.
The Troggs Athens, Andover March 23, 1992 Drums, guitar, bass, co-writing The guys, 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; 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 1992 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the album.
The Troggs Athens and Beyond 1999 Drums, guitar, bass Re-release of Athens, Andover with bonus tracks.
Warren Zevon Sentimental Hygiene 1987 Drums, guitar, bass, co-writing The 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. Peter and Bill play on Sentimental Hygiene and The Heartache.
Warren Zevon Sentimental Hygiene/The Factory/Leave My Monkey Alone August 1987 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon Bad Karma/Boom Boom Mancini/Leave My Monkey Alone November 1987 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon Reconsider Me/The Factory/Bad Karma February 1988 Drums, guitar, bass Single from the album. Some versions do not have the last track.
Warren Zevon Splendid Isolation/Even a Dog Can Shake Hands/Bad Karma/Gridlock 1989 Drums, guitar, bass, co-writing Single from the album. Some versions do not have the last two tracks.
Warren Zevon Even a Dog Can Shake Hands 1999 Drums, guitar, bass, co-writing Used as the theme song to the television series Action.

With Peter BuckEdit

Artist Release Year Role Notes
Doubting Thomas Blue Angel 1993 Drums, guitar On one track.
Tony Trischka World Turning 1993 Bouzouki, percussion On 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.

Release Date Notes
n/a October 10, 2003 - Raleigh, United States After walking across the stage to shake Joey Waronker's hand on August 29, 1999, at the Chastain Park Amphitheatre in Atlanta[3] 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/a August 10, 2005 - Athens, United States The band reform 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; Radio Free Europe; with a short instrumental interlude between the last two numbers.
n/a March 1, 2006 - Athens, United States At 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 single September 12, 2006 - Athens, United States The 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/a September 9, 2006 - Atlanta, Georgia The band is inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame at the Georgia World Congress Center. They perform Begin the Begin, Losing My Religion, and Man on the Moon. Bill, Peter, Mike, and Scott McCaughey also accompany Gregg Allman on a performance of Midnight Rider to round out the show.
n/a March 12, 2007 - New York City, United States For 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 Dream March 17, 2007 While 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.


  1. R.E.M. comes 'Around' full circle
  2. 2.0 2.1 R.E.M.: The Hall: Frenzy of fame contributes to former drummer's shyness
  3. 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.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


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