South Bay Rock Musician’s Unique Take On Christmas Music Selling Out Shows, Helping Chairities

A full-time job as a rock and roll musician is very often a collection of part-time ones. That has certainly been Robert Berry's path to a successful career in music.

Berry, of Campbell, has played guitar, keyboards, and sang with some of the most iconic names of rock over the past thirty-plus years.

"These are photos of my playing with Sammy Hagar," Berry said while pointing to photographs of Berry alongside a variety of big-name artists lining the wall of his studio. Berry even had a top ten hit, "Talkin' Bout," in 1988 during his stint playing with Keith Emerson and Carl Palmer in a band called "3."

"I've been really lucky, super lucky," Berry said.

Berry's favorite part-time gig, though, is one he's been a part of for the past decade, one that only exists for a couple of months each year: December People.

"This is the best idea I've had for making people happy," Berry said.

It all began with a call from his record company.

"We need a Christmas album for our record company," Berry recalled the person saying. "You do it. Click."

Berry, not interested in doing the same old Christmas songs the same old way got an idea. What if he merged Christmas carols with classic rock favorites? Like "Angels We Have Heard On High" played like Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' or "Twas The Night Before Christmas" in the style of Led Zepplin's "Stairway To Heaven."

"It fit like a glove," Berry said.

It worked so well, with so many songs, Berry soon was producing a second album. It was then he figured he needed to put a band together to play the music live.

The one catch? They would only play for free and only play for charity.

"When I heard that, I was in," Gary Phil said. Phil, who has played with the band, Boston, for more than 30 years is December People's lead guitarist.

Berry said he was not sure, at first, how audiences would react to his original style of Christmas music. Those fears were vanquished the very first show December People did.

"I get teary just thinking of it," Berry said. The audience was clapping and singing along from the very start. "I looked at the other guys and said, 'We've got something here.'"

December People plays up to 10 shows each holiday season, raising money for food banks, homeless advocacy groups, and other non-profits.

The end of this year's holiday concerts, however, may also be the end of December People.

Berry says he has had trouble finding management that's a good fit for such a unique band. He is looking for someone who can handle their special logistics (only playing two months out of the year and only playing for charity) all the while helping them to grow their brand.

Until Berry finds that person, Berry said, Christmas People will be on an extended holiday.

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