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Berline, Byron (6 July 1944–10th July 2021)

Fiddler, composer and producer from Caldwell, Kansas, who began fiddling when he was five years old.  He learned how to play his instrument in part with the help of his dad, who was also a fiddle player.

At the University of Oklahoma, whilst studying for a Physical Education degree, he had the good fortune to be introduced to Doug Dillard, whose band, The Dillards, just so happened to be performing there.  A while after that, he appeared on The Dillards’ album, Pickin’ and Fiddlin’.  Another fortuitous meeting with Bill Monroe at the Newport Folk Festival led to a full-time gig with The Blue Grass Boys.

He received a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1967, but shortly thereafter, was conscripted into the United States Armed Forces.  His tour of duty lasted two years and he had a job waiting for him with Dillard and Clark, who employed his services on an LP entitled Through the Morning, Through the Night.

In 1969, he moved to Los Angeles, California.  It did not take long for him to find work.  He scored his first film, Run Simon Run, a made-for-TV movie, in 1970.  In 1971, Dillard & Clark parted ways but Byron stayed on to join The Dillard Expedition.

Then, The Flying Burrito Brothers snapped him up for a tour, and some of this material appears on Last of the Red Hot Burritos and Six Days on the Road:  Live in Amsterdam.  The Brothers broke up, but Byron was not out of a job long, as he joined forces with Stephen Stills and his band, Manassas.

In 1972, he co-founded The Country Gazette with Roger Bush, Alan Munde, and Kenny Werz.  He was with them for three years, and then co-founded another group, Sundance.  Among its members was a young Vince Gill.  They released a self-titled LP and promptly disbanded.

In 1975, Bryon returned to the movie studio, writing music for the Bob Raphelson film, Stay Hungry.  He would get an opportunity to be on-screen in 1979’s The Rose.

Then he hooked up with ex-Sundance band-mates Dan Crary and John Hickman to comprise a trio and they played live dates in Japan and released a trio of LPs on the Sugar Hill label.  The three of them opened up their own production house in 1980, a year that saw the release of Byron’s first solo effort, Outrageous.

As if he weren’t busy enough, he also started up another group, The LA Fiddle Band, and they released a self-titled album in 1981.  In 1984, he collaborated with Chris Hillman on Desert Rose, and not long afterwards, began working on a duet album with long-time partner-in-crime, Dan Hickman.

Eventually, Berline, Crary and Hickman would abbreviate their name to BCH.  They added a fourth member, a bass player by the name of Steve Spurgin, and recorded another album, Now They Are Four, which hit the shelves in 1988.

Then they were five as they added John Moore to the line-up and changed their name to California.  In 1992, they offered up their debut album, Traveler.  For three years running, from 1992 through 1994, the International Bluegrass Music Association named them Instrumental Group of the Year.

In 1995, Byron started up a fiddle shop in Guthrie, Oklahoma.  The name of the shop is Double Stop, and it did not take long for a band to form in the space above the shop, which houses a music hall.  This is where The Byron Berline Band was born.  The band quickly became a sensation throughout Oklahoma before gaining an international audience.

Byron released another solo album, the Grammy-nominated Fiddle and a Song, which boasted an all-star line-up including Vince Gill, Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, and Mason Williams.

In 1997, he started The Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, an annual event which celebrated its lucky 13 anniversary in 2010.  In the winter and spring of 2010, The Byron Berline Band continued performing bi-weekly concerts at the Double Stop music hall in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

For his efforts, Byron was honoured by his home state as an Ambassador of Goodwill and has been enshrined in the Oklahoma Musicians Hall of Fame.