February 24, 2019, the heartbeat of bluegrass in Guthrie, OK was shattered. An unforgiving wind drove the flames as they engulfed a flower shop on E Oklahoma Street, and moved them into the music store and concert hall next door. As the shop went up in flames, one could almost hear the valuable instrument collection inside cry out, while the destruction ended the life of Byron Berline’s Double Stop Fiddle Shop.
The nightmare didn’t end on that Saturday, but a new dream began as out of the ashes Byron made the decision to rebuild. Benefit shows were put on to provide funding to help the Berlines. The first two events raised a little over $10,000, as the community and the nation reached into their wallets to assist in the rebuilding.
Gary Good, owner and founder of Gary Good Entertainment and Speakers Bureau, son of Al Good (1940s orchestra leader) and his big band vocalist, Bettie Dunham Good, is no stranger to the music industry. Gary knows all aspects of entertainment, from booking to fundraising, and set out to accomplish one of the greatest fundraisers the small city of Guthrie had ever seen, titled appropriately, The Music Never Dies.
With a seating capacity of almost 2,000, The Scottish Rite Temple sold out three times.
- The Grand floor sold out the day tickets were put on sale.
- The second floor balcony was opened and it too sold out.
- The third balcony, which hadn’t been used in decades, was also filled to a “no seats“ available capacity.
So for the love of music, steps were put into motion. Larry Gatlin, Vince Gill, and The Turnpike Troubadours all without hesitation were throwing their hat in the ring to raise money for the double stop king, Byron Berline.
During the concert last night, poems were read, and stories shared about that day that will never be forgotten in Guthrie. Bette Berline read a poem from a fan (unknown to her and Byron), and the silence within those marble walls was truly astonishing. Stacie, the Guthrie Ghost guide, shared a story that also left the audience in a hush. As the story goes, Stacie was giving a recent tour, and as the group walked by the burnt remains of the Fiddle Shop, one of the visitors asked, “What was in that building?” Stacie held up in her routine tour of Guthrie, and paused to let them in on the devastating news. A small boy about 4 (wearing a hat bigger than himself) was twitching and dancing around, when his father asked, “Do you have a radio in that hat? There’s no music playing.”
The little boy looked up and pointed at the ruins and ash, and said, “Yes, daddy there is… the music comes from THAT building,” as he pointed towards The Double Stop Fiddle Shop.
Byron Berline and his band took center stage first yesterday evening at the Scottish Rite Temple. With an emotional tone to his voice, Byron thanked everyone for coming out, and for their love and the support. Following them was Larry Gatlin, who repeatedly stated what an honor it was to be there for Byron. The Turnpike Troubadours (from Tahlequah, OK) performed immediately after Gatlin. They had a personal interest in the evil fire as their fiddle player, Kyle Nix, had 5 fiddles tucked in for safe keeping with Berline, that are now part of the rubble. While The Troubadours are more known for their American country music, they held the captive audience in a trance.
Peeking through the stage right wing, you could find Gatlin perched on a metal chair, and directly behind him, the man that has a place in the heart of so many, Byron Berline. Vince Gill took the microphone and poured his heart out about Byron and Bette. He even blamed his recent caloric gain on Bette’s home cooking.
A country superstar career began for Vince in the ’70s when he left his home state of Oklahoma and headed out to California. It wasn’t long before Vince was a member of the Pure Prairie League; and that began a lifetime dream for Gill. Crediting his success to Berline for his support, Gill led the attendees down memory lane with him.
Berline also shared a story about how he ended up owning a Lloyd Loar signed Gibson F-5, in which Vince also figured.
“In 1980, Vince had just left my band and joined Pure Prairie League. He had a little money in his pocket. This mandolin came up for sale in Louisville, KY. All of the good mandolin players were there, Bill Monroe, David Grisman, Sam Bush… the list goes on and on. Harry Sparks had acquired this mandolin through a trade. I was invited to try that mandolin and I said, ‘it wont sound as good as what I am playing.’ I compared them, and really liked that Loar. He wouldn’t take any less for it and was asking $7500 for it. I got home and was telling Bette, that I had this opportunity to buy this Loar. We had saved up enough money for a new car. About a week or later, Vince called on the phone, and asked if I was going to buy Harry’s mandolin. Gill said, “If not, I am going to buy it.’ I hung up the phone, and told Bette that it looked like Vince was going to buy the mandolin. Bette said, ‘If you want it, go ahead and buy it.’ That’s all it took. I called Harry and purchased it.”
That push was all it took, and he purchased that classic mandolin. Hand delivered to Berline in California, in its Mark Leaf case, that mandolin had never been far removed from Byron’s side. He believes that the case, and being inside of a fireproof safe, saved the instrument. At the grand finale last night, Berline walked from the curtain, and in his hand, not a bow, but that Mark Leaf case, and inside… The Loar. Since the day of recovery from the fireproof safe, that wonderful instrument hadn’t seen daylight, but Tuesday night, was the night.
Byron bent in admiration, unlocked the case, and pulled his Loar out for all to see. He then turned to Vince, saying, “You play it.” Vince smiled, and as he took the mandolin out of Berline’s hand, said, “I should have bought it.”
In true fashion, the Music Never Dies benefit lifted human spirits and allowed the brotherhood of man to embrace in their love of music… and their love of the MAN, Byron Berline.