Fiddler Byron Berline passes away
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Fiddler Byron Berline passes away

Tuesday, July 13, 2021 – Fiddle player Byron Berline, who played with everyone from The Rolling Stones to Bob Dylan to his own bluegrass bands, died on Saturday at 77 after suffering a stroke.

Berline may be best known for playing on the Stones' "Country Tonk." He also played on recordings by 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, Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Dillards, Mason Williams, Stephen Stills, Bill Wyman, Manhattan Transfer, Joe Diffie, The Doobie Brothers, Lucinda Williams, Mickey Gilley and Andy Statman.

Berline was born in Caldwell, Kan., on July 6, 1944. He started playing the fiddle at age five. In 1965, he recorded the album "Pickin' and Fiddlin'" with The Dillards. That 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 to finish his education. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1967 with a teaching degree in physical education and joined the Bluegrass Boys in March, replacing Richard Greene. He recorded three instrumentals with them, including "Gold Rush," which Berline and Monroe co-wrote, and which has become a jam session standard. Berline left the group in September 1967 when he was drafted into the Army.

Two years later, Berline joined Dillard & Clark on the album "Through the Morning, Through the Night."

He played on "Country Honk" on the Rolling Stones' album "Let It Bleed." 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."

After the Burritos' demise, Berline briefly worked with Stephen Stills's band Manassas (which also included several other Burritos' alumni) contributing to several songs on their debut album. With Alan Munde, Kenny Wertz and Roger Bush, Berline formed the band Country Gazette early in 1972.

Berline joined guitarist Dan Crary, banjoist John Hickman and others to form Byron Berline and Sundance. 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.

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

In 1981, Berline collaborated with Crary and Hickman, forming Berline, Crary, and Hickman

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

Berline recorded solo albums, including "Fiddle and a Song," with performances from Earl Scruggs, Bill Monroe, Vince Gill and Mason Williams. In 1995 it was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Bluegrass Album. Its song "Sally Goodin" was nominated for Best Country & Western Instrumental.

Berline also owned an instrumental store in Guthrie, Okla.

©Country Standard Time • Jeffrey B. Remz, editor & publisher •
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