Memories & Tributes

July 11, 2021


Fred: I was very sorry to hear of Byron's passing. I had no idea.
Here's a photo from back in the Army days. Me, Byron and Travis Stewart.
I forgot the bass player's name. I'd drive over from Houston now and then
to jam with these guys.
- Doc Hamilton













Byron Berline, Mark O'Connor, Bill Monroe, Dan Crary, John Hickman





July 12, 2021




My connection to Byron came while I was a graduate student (Physics) at UC San Diego in the '70's. I found that a fellow graduate student, Bill Paciesas, had similar tastes in music. We both like bluegrass, blues, and Old Timey. He more to the blues side, me more to the bluegrass side. Also, I met an undergraduate in Revelle College, Mike Schway, who had similar interests. He was also an excellent musician and we formed a band, the Soledad Mountain Ramblers, which played venues around campus.

We three got together and schemed to promote our music interests on campus. We formed a (3 student!) organization, which we called the Society for the Preservation of American Music, SPAM for short. We had a regular radio show on the over-the-wires FM student radio station. We played the music we liked and talked about it.

We, somehow, had a great idea - we'll put on a bluegrass concert on campus and hire the Country Gazette, based in nearby LA, for it. Their 'Traitor in our Midst' album was quite hot at the time, and their music could resonate with our student body, we reasoned. Perhaps miraculously, the Gazette agreed to our terms and came down to San Diego for the concert. We waylayed the Revelle cafeteria, which had a stage at the front, for their concert. It was free for the students, and I recall there was a decent audience. The show they gave was really good. I remember when they played a hot instrumental, and Byron first played the fiddle, then picked up his mandolin and played an awesome break. I didn't realize he also was a such a good mandolin player. I think the tune was 'Hot Burrito Breakdown'.

Well, before the show, we interviewed the band live on our student radio station. I don't remember what was said, but I do remember when we were talking with Alan Munde. At one point, we asked him about his experiences with Jimmy Martin. Suddenly, the always-smiling, happy-go-lucky Munde became quiet and serious. He wasn't treated well by Martin. Thankfully he found another way.

We didn't do any more concerts, but we put on a yearly Mini Folk Festival which included bluegrass acts. At the first one in 1972 we heard Tom Waits, who's from San Diego, and the Aunt Dina's Quilting Party, which had included Larry Rice on mandolin. The highlight was a great set by Merle Travis at the 3rd Annual festival in 1974.

Then I graduated and headed east for a job at Cornell. I'm pretty sure I saw Berline's band California at the 1992 Winterhawk festival, the year the Canadian band 'Blue Mule' won the band contest. It's the Winterhawk that had Tony Furtado and Sugarbeet and also Laurie Lewis.

-Bill Forrest


July 14, 2021


The news of Byron came this weekend. Just writing it down seems impossible. In my world Byron Berline was a presence; friend, colleague, collaborator, mentor, and old pal, all those to be sure, but more, he was one of those people you knew was special, not just +one in the population. Today people the world over grieve his loss; he was universal and international in scope. I guess that somewhere in most nations of the world there are at least a few people who know Byron's music, and in many nations those fans are in the millions. There is a kind of immortality in that: his playing inspired young people (and some not young) to take up the fiddle or listen closely to traditional music. He reached the millions by playing Hollywood movie soundtracks and pop star recording sessions. And he reached the thousands at live gigs and festivals all over the world, but he also got to the hundreds of down-home folks by personally teaching and mentoring the locals and their kids in his fiddle shop. These that he reached personally will tell the stories for future generations. You could do worse than to be able to tell your grandchildren, "Here's a lick I learned from Berline himself!" That's something that will happen sometime before 2071, and also during and beyond. He was international, was Byron: When we played exotic places in the south Pacific or Europe his virtuosity and energy and big smile crossed over cultural differences and caught the imagination of audiences from very different worlds. Little children on a hard bench in Tonga or The Solomon Islands sat for hours in perfect patience to hear him play and applaud like all Nashville for the magic of "Forked Deer" or "Orange Blossom Special" with the fiddle leading and John Hickman's banjo playing perfect support. Over lunch Byron had great stories to tell of Bill Monroe's band or a Hollywood session or some weirdness we experienced together on the road ten years back. His sense of irony and how things are sometimes serious and absurd all at once let you know he had figured that out. And by gosh he could tell the stories. People like that are rare and priceless, and I got to have lunch with this one in many places and times. Now most knowledgeable fiddle music people will say that Byron's gift was so monumental that it elevated the quality of fiddle playing and traditional music everywhere. And I can tell you that he raised the stakes in guitar playing as well. In the many times I got to work with him, playing the old tunes together, I had an additional responsibility: you gotta' be worthy of such a partner. Of course, we aim to do our best all the time, but in the presence of such a partner as Berline, there's even more reason to make it good, to step up, to excel. But then, same coin, other side: as the greatest of his generation, Byron was also graciously at home and encouraging to all types of other musicians, very young or very old, amateur or pro, good or not-so, he could set them at ease, yuck it up, have fun and show respect all 'round the room. He'd always jump in there with others like they were one of the gang, glad to be there, showing them respect, making them welcome. But when the going got really serious, a gig or a session, or a rehearsal, Byron became the monumental international player and personality and you didn't want to let him down, you worked hard to be worthy. Among the many monuments to his amazing life and gift, are his great family and thriving Oklahoma community. They will miss him, God knows, and so will his whole world. As we grieve for him and celebrate him, we will also look for ways to remember and continue his art and his influence. It's a powerful thing: in the music of the artists he helped and inspired we still hear echoes of Byron himself. His fire passes on in the generations to come. We will be listening for it. Thanks, Pal, for letting us hang with you a few years. You did well, very well. And a hundred years from now, they're going to remember your time here as a golden age. They'll tell the stories and play your music and listen to you again with joy and awe, just like we did. Bon Voyage, Byron, as you continue your journey outward among the stars. - Dan Crary

July 17, 2021

Vince Gill 

"Two Timer" by  

Rico Petruccelli Studio, Silver Spring, MD 1987?
Liz Meyer (vocal & guitar), John Cowan (tenor ), David Parmley (vocal),
Byron Berline (fiddle), Dan Crary (guitar), John Hickman (banjo),
Mike Auldridge (dobro), Akira Otsuka (mandolin),
Larry Paxton (bass), Shannon Ford (drums)

Liz wrote Two Timer for Byron to play on. Byron was a dear friend to many, including Liz and myself. Liz would have been proud to take part.
The CD Womanly Arts (1992), with Two Timer on it will be re-released next month, 10 years after Liz (my late wife) passed away.
-Pieter Groenveld

Berline Crary Hickman with Liz (by Harry Vogel)

July 19, 2021

August 6, 2021

I just remembered I had this online in my Dennis Satterlee Collection

There were lots of people recording with reel to reel units in the 1950s and 1960 (you included I'm sure). Anyone who got their early exposure to bluegrass at Carlton Haney's first festivals knew that was a given. I was there in 1966 and 1967 helping a friend record everything by everyone.

I started getting serious about collecting around 1971 and had very little to trade at the time but there were a couple of people who I believe advertised in Bluegrass Unlimited who got me on my feet, as well as many others, as a tape collector. They should be recognized.

First and foremost was a pharmacist from the Chicago area, Don Hoos. All names spelled are going to be phonetic since I haven't heard from any of these people in years. Don had a fabulous collection and was willing to share all of it on cassette tape, which meant that reel to reel guys had to step up to the "new" technology. When I first received his tape list it was about 20 pages of priceless live shows, radio shows and impossible to find recordings. I would say in the 1970s and even early 1980s Don was the go to collector in the United States. I'm sure the Flatt and Scruggs and the Osborne Brothers with Red Allen material came from his collection.

The Sapporo, Japan story is an interesting one as well and here comes my phonetic spelling again. I traded reel to reel tape with two Japanese fans, Kenzi Tiara and Toshima (whose last name I forget). We would write to each other on the old "air mail" paper which was much thinner than normal writing paper and cost less to mail internationally. Then we paid the price by sending reel to reel rather than cassette, but we could do it internationally as media mail and it was certainly worth it. I got shows and copies of recordings that no one else in the country had. It was oneof the two of them that got the Sapporo recording for me. I apologize to Toshima for not remembering his last name. It's been a few years.

WAMU broadcast a live fundraising bluegrass show annually as well as non-fund raisers, from time to time, when Gary Henderson had guests in the studio. I'm guilty of recording that one off the air.

As I told you I gave the bulk of my collection to the International Bluegrass Music Museum, after converting everything to CD, in hopes that at some point they will share it with fans the way you are sharing your collections. Thanks for asking and letting me tell you about these pioneers.

-Dennis Satterlee April 18, 2016

Country Gazette, Sapporo, Japan - 1977

Country Gazette, WAMU Festival - 1982


  Monroe's 71st Birthday - Sally Goodin - Byron Berline


  Leland Sklar May 25, 2021



Berline, Byron   11/15/2014    Part 1 of a 2 part interview:
Steve chats with the legendary fiddle player, Byron Berlineabout his career.
Byron is always a great story-teller with so many stories to tell.


Berline, Byron   11/15/2014   Part 2: A continuation of the interview
between Byron and Steve where many more stories are shared. A great glimpse into the life of Byron Berline.


Berline, Byron Star Trek 1987   11/15/2014   Byron shares the story of
how he was involved in the special Star Trek episode in 1987 when the
humanoid Data wanted to learn to play the fiddle.


  See and hear the story...


  Courtesy September 2021 Excerpts
Editor Dan Miller


  Courtesy Fall 2021 Excerpts
Editor Mary Larsen

Link to "Gold Rush" in Jody's article
(clipped from the link below...)

Full 30-minute vinyl recording of
Bill Monroe's Country Music Hall of Fame 1971


  Courtesy September 2021 Excerpts
Editor Shin Akimoto


  September 18, 2021

The "Blue Mask Boys", my fellow Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association members' band
(all of whom are board members!), graciously honored my last-minute request
to play "Gold Rush" and dedicate it to Byron.

Thanks to Jon Ahmadjian (guitar), David Chernack (fiddle), Eric Marshall (bass),
Steve Margulis (mandolin), Bruno Bruzzese (banjo)


Last Update: September 22, 2021

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