• May 26, 2024

Ken Berry had an early start in show biz

You’d never know it to talk to the guy, but Ken Berry was a triple threat. Despite his reluctance to proclaim his multi-hyphenate credentials, Berry was an accomplished actor, singer, and dancer. However, he was slow to embrace any of those labels.

“I don’t think of myself as one or the other,” Berry told the Durham, North Carolina Herald-Sun in 1983. “I just take the work.”

By that point in time, Berry was well-known for sitcom work. He’d previously starred in The Andy Griffith Show spin-off Mayberry, R.F.D, which he headlined for three seasons. Berry’s career saw a resurgence in the ’80s as he joined the cast of Mama’s Family, where he played Mama’s son Vint who returns home to live with her.

While such an about-face from one show to the next might throw another actor out of whack, Berry had the experience to remain professional. That’s because the Moline, Illinois native had been working professionally in the performing arts from the time he was 15. Berry traveled all over the United States and Europe as a part of Horace Heidt’s Youth Opportunity Program.

“It was a tough grind,” said Berry. “I don’t know how I did it. I guess it was the fact I was only 15 — that and the fact that I was so excited to finally be making money for doing something I loved doing.”

Berry returned to the States to finish up high school before moving to Hollywood, where he began the rest of his career.

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