Artist2Artist: Byron Berline – Fence Jumper

Byron BerlineIn the pursuit of creativity, a true artist relies on a counter-intuitive vision to see and develop opportunities that others miss. Yes… counter-intuitive. They travel to where others won’t, and they believe in who they are and what it is about them that they bring to the musical landscape.

The industry is overflowing with musicians who, season after season, plow the same crowded field of dreams. They focus on what others are doing or might want out of them, and less on artistic uniqueness. They miss, and even reject, opportunities to develop into an artist.


Last week I met fiddle player Byron Berline.

Lisa Jacobi and Byron Berline jammingOf course I know who he is, but not much about him. I didn’t know about his connection to Elton John or Levon Helm or to the movie Star Trek.

I sure didn’t expect to find him right under my nose in Guthrie, Oklahoma when I was out that way visiting my husband, Joe, who lives and works in nearby Oklahoma City. tmi: I hold down our family home in Ducktown, Tennessee due to my stubborn appreciation for moss and mountains.

In the mid-1960’s, Byron Berline was one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boy (the real deal). He certainly doesn’t rest on the laurels from those few years, but he does appreciate the experience and the friendships which came from it.

He could have played it safe in his career, but instead looked where others weren’t looking. He didn’t wait for the doors to open – he jumped across the fence and took his bluegrass music through different terrain – with his focus square on creating his own style and keeping his life open for unusual opportunities.

Byron has a fearless countenance and a drive to do what intrigues him.

When bluegrass musicians were travelling the usual festival and opry circuit in the east, Byron went west to California.

And when the trend was to relocate to Nashville, Tennessee – Byron went home to Guthrie, Oklahoma.

Byron Berline's Double Stop Fiddle ShopThere, he opened a music store and top-notch instrument restoration shop that he named Byron’s Double Stop Fiddle Shop – it welcomes all comers to sit and play the stunning instruments found throughout the building.

He built an opry where he and The Byron Berline Band perform every other week to attentive audiences.

He created the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival in Guthrie and October 2-4 will be its 18th year attracting level-headed, talented performers from all over the world from various music genres – including his music, bluegrass and western swing.

And from Guthrie, Byron travels the world – seriously – Europe, China, north Africa, Japan, the south Pacific and Australia.

It was in Guthrie just last week, at his music store, where I tracked down Byron for this month’s Artist2Artist conversation.

Please listen to the interview by scrolling back up, as I suspect you will enjoy our talk as much as I did. He’s one funny guy with some definite ideas about the state of bluegrass music. And he does a helluva good Bill Monroe imitation.