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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

BERLINE, BYRON (1944–2021).

Three-time national fiddle champion Byron Berline was born on July 6, 1944, in Caldwell, Kansas. He was one of Luke Berline's five children, all of whom were musically inclined. The family owned a farm with land in both Oklahoma and Kansas, but they resided in Grant County, Oklahoma. Byron Berline began to play the fiddle at age five, with his father's help. After earning a teaching degree in physical education from the University of Oklahoma, Berline joined bluegrass legend Bill Monroe and his group, the Bluegrass Boys, but the U.S. Army drafted the young musician six months later. Discharged in 1969 after two years of service, he joined a grouped called Dillard and Clark Expedition. He then moved to California, playing his music in Europe, China, Japan, Australia, North Africa and the South Pacific. He performed with Country Gazette, his own group Sundance, and other bands. Berline and his wife, Bette, lived in Los Angeles until April 1995 when they returned to Oklahoma after the death of his father-in-law.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century Berline resided in Guthrie and operated the Double Stop Fiddle Shop. He also created the annual Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, first held in 1997. Many musicians, including Ricky Skaggs and Vince Gill, claim that he was their mentor. Berline has a long list of recording credits with musical groups, including The Band, The Byrds, The Eagles, Rolling Stones, Manhattan Transfer, and Alabama, and with individuals, including Bob Dylan, Elton John, Rod Stewart, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Joe Diffee, Mickey Gilley, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, and Emmylou Harris. Berline's sound track credits include work with Henry Mancini, Jerry Fielding, Johnny Williams, and Lalo Schifrin. Berline has been involved in the motion pictures Stay Hungry, Blaze, Back to the Future III, and Basic Instinct.

Berline’s fiddle shop, which housed his collection of instruments and hosted live music events, burned in 2019, but he reopened a new venue in Guthrie. After suffering a stroke, he died on July 10, 2021. He is represented in the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Erin M. Dowell

Last updated 07/12/2021


George Lang, "Bluegrass Grows in Guthrie," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 7 October 2001.

Colin Larkin, ed., The Encyclopedia of Popular Music (3d ed.; London: Muze, Limited, 1998).

Bryan Painter, "Shop Fulfills Dream," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 6 September 1995.

Carol Rumpf, "WOW! Who Are These Guys?" Bluegrass Now (June 2002).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Erin M. Dowell, “Berline, Byron,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BE021.

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