Berkley O. “Berk” Bryant, known as “The Country Gentleman” on both stage and radio, passed away on Christmas Eve 2020 at Heritage Green Assisted Living and Memory Care in Lynchburg, VA. He was 90 years of age, and had been experiencing declining health and a most unkind dementia before suffering a heart attack on December 24.
Berk was born and raised in Lynchburg, where he was a popular radio host in the 1950s, even earning the title Mr. DJ USA from WSM Radio in Nashville. He joined the US Army where he served for 20 years, earning him Vietnam veteran status, retiring from the Army while stationed at Fort Knox, KY.
His Sunday Bluegrass program launched in Lousiville in 1989, first at WRNL, before moving to WFPK where it ran three hours weekly for 30 years. It was only when Berk’s memory began to slip that he had to give up the show, and it bothered him greatly to abandon his loyal listening audience.
For the final edition of Sunday Bluegrass with Berk Bryant, the station staged a live remote broadcast from the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville on March 11, 2018. He closed that show, as he always did, with his familiar sign-off, “Let’s go get a doughnut,” which was his custom following the broadcast on his ride home.
Throughout his stint with the Army, and after his retirement, Bryant had a passion for entertaining. Both on the radio and as a MC at various country and bluegrass music events from Michigan to Tennessee, he would share his vast knowledge of the genre with an approachable, folksy style.
In addition to music, Berk was a talented magician, and performed whenever he could. He especially enjoyed doing shows for children. He was a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, the Society of American Magicians, and was active in the Louisville Magic Club.
Bryant will be remembered for his friendly demeanor and his love of discussing the music that he cared for so deeply with all comers.
A private family ceremony was held on December 30 at Fort Hill Memorial Park in Lynchburg.
R.I.P., Berk Bryant.