Byron Berline

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Byron Berline
Birth nameByron Berline
Born (1944-07-06) July 6, 1944 (age 76)
OriginCaldwell, Kansas, United States
InstrumentsFiddle, mandolin
Years active1960s–present

Byron Berline (born July 6, 1944) is an American fiddle player.[1] He plays many styles within the American tradition: old time, ragtime, bluegrass, Cajun, country and rock.


Berline was born in Caldwell, Kansas in the United States.[1] He started playing the fiddle at age five and quickly developed his talent. In 1965 he recorded the album Pickin' and Fiddlin' with the Dillards.[1] The same year he met Bill Monroe at the Newport Folk Festival and was offered a job with Monroe's Bluegrass Boys, but he turned it down in order to finish his education. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1967[1] with a teaching degree in Physical Education and joined the Bluegrass Boys in March replacing Richard Greene. He recorded three instrumentals with the Blue Grass Boys including "Gold Rush." That tune, which Berline co-wrote with Monroe, has become a jam session standard. Berline left the group in September 1967 when he was drafted into the Army.

Discharged from the Army in 1969, Berline joined Dillard & Clark on the album Through the Morning, Through the Night.[1] He moved to Southern California that year.

Berline played on "Country Honk" from the album Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones. The recording is the original version of "Honky Tonk Women". (Source: album sleeve notes, Keith Richard's autobiography)

Berline first won the National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest Championship in 1965.[2] The contest has been scheduled annually in Weiser, Idaho since 1953. He went on to win the title twice more, in both 1967 and 1970.

He joined The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1971 recording two albums, Last of the Red Hot Burritos (Live), and Six Days On the Road: Live in Amsterdam.[1] After the Burritos' breakup, Berline briefly worked with Stephen Stills' band Manassas (which also included several other Burritos' alumni) contributing to several songs on their debut album. Together with Alan Munde, Kenny Wertz, and Roger Bush, Berline formed the band Country Gazette early in 1972.[1]

Berline joined with guitarist Dan Crary, banjo player John Hickman and others to form Byron Berline and Sundance.[1] Their self-titled debut album was released on MCA Records in 1976. A young Vince Gill later joined the band on mandolin. The album Live at McCabes was released in 1978.[1]

In 1979 Berline had a small role as a country musician in the film The Rose. In 1987, Berline appeared briefly playing violin in the first-season episode "Where No One Has Gone Before" of Star Trek: The Next Generation.

In 1981 Berline again collaborated with banjo player John Hickman and guitarist Dan Crary and formed the band Berline, Crary, and Hickman (BCH);[1] A subsequent line up also included Steve Spurgin and John Moore. That band later became known as California.[1] California was named the International Bluegrass Music Association Instrumental Group of the Year in 1992, 1993, and 1994.

In April 1995, Berline moved to Guthrie, Oklahoma to open a fiddle shop called "Double Stop". From the jam sessions there on the upper floor "The Byron Berline Band" was formed.

Two years later he founded the annual Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival.[1] The annual event is among the most acclaimed bluegrass festivals in the United States. Throughout the festival's existence Berline has brought an array of bluegrass musicians to Guthrie including Earl Scruggs, Ricky Skaggs, John Hartford and many others. The festival has featured performances by famous international bluegrass artists including the Czech band Druhá Tráva, the Swiss band the Kruger Brothers, and The Japanese Bluegrass Band.

Berline has recorded several solo albums most notably Fiddle and a Song which featured guest performances from Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Vince Gill and Mason Williams. In 1995 the album was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Bluegrass Album category. The tune "Sally Goodin" from the album was nominated in the category Best Country & Western Instrumental Performance.

Berline currently owns and operates the Double Stop Fiddle Shop in Guthrie.[1] Byron along with Thomas Trapp, Richard Sharp, Greg Burgess and Bill Perry, make up The Byron Berline Band. The band travels the United States and Europe regularly, but continues to perform two concerts a month in Guthrie, entertaining residents of their hometown.

On February 23, 2019 The Double Stop Fiddle Shop burned to the ground while Berline was in Mexico. The fire destroyed dozens of irreplaceable instruments. However, one of Byron's favorite mandolins was preserved in a safe while the other instruments in the safe were destroyed. Berline has opened a new fiddle shop and music hall across the street from the original shop.

Byron Berline has recorded with many well known musicians including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Byrds, Janis Ian, Earl Scruggs, Dillard & Clark, Willie Nelson, Guthrie Thomas, Bill Monroe, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Doc Watson, John Denver, Gene Clark, Rod Stewart, The Eagles, The Band, Vince Gill, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Alabama, Don Francisco, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Dillards, Mason Williams, Stephen Stills, Bill Wyman, Manhattan Transfer, Joe Diffie, The Doobie Brothers, Lucinda Williams, François Vola, Mickey Gilley, Deke Leonard and Andy Statman.

His music has also appeared in television and film soundtracks, including Star Trek, Blue Collar, Basic Instinct, Blaze, Back to the Future Part III, Northern Exposure, Stay Hungry, and Run, Simon, Run.


  • Pickin' and Fiddlin' (with The Dillards) (1965)
  • Byron Berline & Sundance (1976)
  • Dad's Favorites (1977)
  • Live at McCabes (1978)
  • Byron Berline and the L.A. Fiddle Band (1980)
  • Outrageous (1980)
  • Berline, Crary, Hickman (1981)
  • Francois Vola (1983)
  • Night Run (1984)
  • B-C-H (1986)
  • Double Trouble (1986)
  • Now They Are Four (1989)
  • Jumpin' the Strings (1990)
  • Fiddle and a Song (1995)
  • Flatbroke Fiddler (2005)
  • Flying Fingers (2016)


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Colin Larkin, ed. (2003). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Eighties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 57. ISBN 1-85227-969-9.
  2. ^ "Welcome to The National Oldtime Fiddlers' Contest & Festival!". Retrieved October 31, 2019.

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