Music

Joe Diffie's 'Ships That Don't Come In' Inspired John Berry to Chase Nashville Stardom

B! Noted Publicity and Crystal K. Martel

When Joe Diffie passed away on March 29 from COVID-19 (coronavirus) complications, most fans likely turned to Diffie's fun songs, including "Pickup Man," "Bigger Than The Beatles" and "Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox," to honor a '90s country legend with a clear influence on Jason Aldean, Ashley McBryde and other modern stars.

Yet for John Berry, the serene and insightful "Ships That Don't Come In" means even more than Diffie's carefree hits because it marked a change in plans that allowed another heartfelt '90s hit, 1994's "Your Love Amazes Me," to happen.

"In 1992, I was driving home from playing a club in Athens, Georgia," Berry said during an interview from February's Country Radio Seminar (CRS). "I was making a serious living playing clubs in Athens and the surrounding area. So I was driving home, and a DJ came on WNGC in Athens and said, 'Hey y'all, we've got a brand new song from Joe Diffie.' I said, 'Joe Diffie? I'm going to turn that up.' It played 'Ships That Don't Come In.' He got to that line singing, 'To those who stand on empty shores and spit against the wind, and those who wait forever for ships that don't come in.' For the first time it occurred to me, maybe I was the biggest I'd ever be. I'd just be some guy playing bars in Athens, Georgia and the surrounding area, and I'd be a big ole fish in a small pond.

"I got home, woke my wife up and said, 'Baby, we've got to talk. This ain't going to cut it'," Berry contined. "We came up with a plan to come to Nashville every six weeks for a year and do a little showcase at different clubs. If I didn't get any attention in a year, then we'd punt. So I came up in May of '92 to Douglas Corner. We sent out 250 industry invitations. Nobody came but one guy, and I'm like, 'Thank goodness. I'll get one under my belt. I'll know what to expect next time we come, and I'll be a little bit more comfortable.' That one guy worked for Jimmy Bowen, the president of Capitol Records. He called me the next day and said, 'Bowen wants to have lunch with you.' They set up a private showcase for me to come see Bowen, so I came up and did a private showcase for him and got a record deal out of it."

Read More: Hear John Berry Honor His Father With 'The Richest Man'

Diffie's "Ships That Don't Come In" was a top five single off his 1992 Epic Records album Regular Joe. Dave Gibson, a member of the Gibson/Miller Band, co-wrote it with Paul Nelson.

Berry's self-titled debut album arrived in June 1993. Three of its five singles ("Your Love Amazes Me," "What's In It For Me" and "You and Only You") became top five hits, and the album has since earned platinum certification.

"Ships That Don't Come In" Lyrics

I could tell he'd had a tough life
By the way he sat and stared
And me, I'd come to push and shove
So I pulled up a chair

We talked of roads untraveled
We talked of love untrue
Of strings that come unraveled
We were kings and kindred fools
And just when I'd hit bottom
That old man raised his glass
And said at least we had our chances
There's those who never have

So here's to all the soldiers
Who have ever died in vain
The insane locked up in themselves
The homeless down on Main
To those who stand on empty shores
And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever
For ships that don't come in

He said it's only life's illusions
That bring us to this bar
To pick up these old crutches
And compare each others scars
'Cuz the things we're calling heartache
Hell, they're hardly worth our time
We bitch about a dollar
When there's those without a dime

And as he ordered one last round
He said I guess we can't complain
God made life a gamble
And we're still in the game

So here's to all the soldiers
Who have ever died in vain
The insane locked up in themselves
The homeless down on Main
To those who stand on empty shores
And spit against the wind
And those who wait forever
For ships that don't come in

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Joe Diffie's 'Ships That Don't Come In' Inspired John Berry to Chase Nashville Stardom