FAIRMONT - They call him "Mr. Christmas," and he'll be in town Friday performing at Fairmont Opera House.
For about 12 years now, John Berry and his fellow musicians have packed up their gear and hit the road for a Christmas tour.
"We want to leave people feeling a little more inspired about Christmas," Berry said. "This is not a generic holiday show by any stretch. This is definitely a Christmas event."
It all began years ago with a show at his home church in Georgia. From there, Berry decided to record "O Holy Night" and "O Come O Come Emmanuel." That was in 1994, the same year his No. 1 hit "Your Love Amazes Me" was nominated for a Grammy, and the same year he won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for best new artist.
But 1994 wasn't all glitter and gold for Berry.
"That year I had had some serious health issues," he said, referring to a cyst in his brain that required surgery.
As a thank you for all the support he received from his fans and country radio, he mailed the two Christmas songs he had recorded to stations, along with a greeting card. The response was a surprise, particularly for "O Holy Night."
"The song just got tremendous airplay overnight," Berry said. "It was just kind of crazy."
He went on to record eight more Christmas songs to release the first of three holiday albums, and in 1995, he started a Christmas tour.
"I love the classic Christmas songs," he said, mentioning "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" as a favorite. "That's mainly the kind of stuff we do."
When Berry performs 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Opera House, the first part of the evening will include hits from his past, like "What's In It for Me," "You and Only You," "Standing on the Edge of Goodbye," "I Think About It All the Time," and "She's Taken a Shine." Berry also will perform songs from his latest album, "Made in America."
After intermission, Berry will break into the Christmas classics, with a video to accompany the performance and some stories too.
"We want to leave memories of a great evening," said Berry, who will be joined on stage by his wife, Robin, and several other musicians. "... I just hope folks come out and be with us, and come and talk to me after the show. I love to hang out afterwards. I'll be the last one to leave the building. First one in, last one out."
Tickets for the show are available by calling the Opera House at (507) 238-4900. The cost is $20 for adults and $5 for students.