Celebrated fiddler Byron Berline has been more visible of late with his violin shop than he has as a touring and recording artist. But that is about to change.
A pair of new projects are expected this year that will warm the hearts of fiddlers and lovers of fiddle music worldwide.
First up is a new album, Jammin’ With Byron, which is expected in the next few months. A total of 22 tunes are included, putting Berline together in the studio with some crack musicians like his former Country Gazette partner Alan Munde, and banjo legends Bill Emerson and Jens Kruger. Among the titles are Leather Britches, Cotton Patch Rag, Denver Bell, Cattle in the Caine, Twinkle Little Star, Charmaine, Walking in my Sleep, Hamilton Co. Breakdown, Amazing Grace (performed on a mandocello), plus several original tunes.
Byron has also recently completed an autobiography, Diary Of A Fiddler, collaborating with writer Jane Frost.
As much as I look forward to hearing his new record, the book is what has really piqued my interest. Berline has had a long and noteworthy career in bluegrass, from the time he was introduced to a national audience by The Dillards in a brilliant instrumental album, Pickin’ and Fiddlin’ in 1965. That was followed by a stint with Bill Monroe in 1966-67, which included his recording the now-standard fiddle classic, Gold Rush, as a Blue Grass Boy. That tune is credited to Monroe, but speculation has been rampant for years that Byron had actually authored or co-authored it himself.
Byron’s musical career followed him having won multiple fiddle championships, and having played football at the University of Oklahoma, where he obtained a degree in physical education. After college he moved west to Los Angeles, where he met up with The Dillards. It was in California that Country Gazette was born, where Alan Munde landed after service with Jimmy Martin.
Berline remained in southern California, performing with a number of groups (Sundance, Berline, Crary and Hickman, Dillard & Clark) before heading home to Oklahoma and his Doublestop Fiddle Shop in 1995. In addition to several albums with these bands, his instrumental projects are gems, every one. Dad’s Favorites, now out of print, was a particular favorite of mine, with a near-definitive cut of Ragtime Annie – with all three parts.
Having had the chance to hear him relate stories of his time on the road, I expect that Diary Of A Fiddler will be a very entertaining read. Can’t wait.