*** This story was published Feb. 12, 2009, in the Bristol Herald Courier.
BLUFF CITY, Tenn. -It started as your typical American love story. He sang a song. And she put her head on his shoulder.
Gathered backstage for musical auditions at Dollywood, this pair formed perfect harmony in the Smoky Mountains of Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
And why not?
Eric Griffith came from the east - specifically, Sullivan East High School, near Bluff City, Tenn., where he graduated in 1994. As a kid, he played basketball at Bluff City Middle School.
Holly Kerney came from the north -that is, she graduated Sullivan North High School, near the Bloomingdale community, in 1995. As a young girl, she was a cheerleader at Ketron Middle School.
These crooners never met in the hills of Sullivan County. It was not until they were under the spell of the Dollywood theme park that their passion took hold. And, yet, not even then.
But wait - let's not get ahead of ourselves.
To understand the sweet harmony that happened when Eric met Holly, we also must keep in mind that nothing - not a thing - was really going to come of that first lean on Eric's shoulder.
"I certainly had a crush on him," Holly said. "And I kind of let it be known that I liked him."
Still, Holly had a boyfriend.
And Eric? Well, he was spoken for as well.
So this pair became friends. Just friends.
And, yes, they would make music on stage, starting in January 1996, when they sang "Unchained Melody" together.
"I was thinking, 'Oh, my gosh! This guy has the best voice,' " Holly remembered. "I had never met a guy who had his kind of voice."
And Eric? Well, he said, smiling, "I'm not used to good-looking blondes putting their heads on my shoulder."
During that summer, and the next, Eric and Holly performed with more than a dozen 20-somethings at Dollywood's Pines Theatre. One show was called "Let the Good Times Roll."
But, as Eric put it, "It was 1998 before the good times were really rolling."
'WE WERE FRIENDS'
By then, the couple had migrated to Atlanta, Ga. Both Eric and Holly had longed for new horizons. And they found that - together, but separately - as singing performers at the Six Flags Over Georgia theme park.
Now, never mind that old Vicki Lawrence song. The lights, certainly, didn't go out in Georgia for these two. "We were friends," Eric said. "And we had the same group of friends."
In time, too, that same group started rooting for this pair to become a couple. That finally began when the two had their first official date - on May 15, 1998 - at a Mexican restaurant. You might say they fell in love over chips and salsa.
Once more, too, they found themselves going back to Dollywood as singers. Only, this time, sparks would fly - both on stage and off, Holly said, giggling. "I always found him very attractive," Holly said.
In a few more months, Eric popped the question. The couple got married on Feb. 13, 1999.
Today, the Griffiths live in Bluff City with a ranch house overlooking Holston Mountain. Holly is a stay-at-home mom, caring for the couple's two young sons, 2-year-old Owen and 9-year-old Gunner. Eric serves as the foreman of a commercial glass-installation company.
To these lovebirds, Valentine's Day season seems twice as nice ? with the timing of the couple's wedding anniversary, serving as a prelude, just a day before. You might say it's just like a song.
"Music has always been a part of our lives," Eric said. "We love to sing together and sing professionally."
Indeed, Holly said, the couple that sings together stays together. "It's the way we connected," she said. "And we stay connected."