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Vince Gill scheduled for 2012 Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival in October at Guthrie

Friendship between famed fiddler Byron Berline and Vince Gill spans decades
Oklahoman Published: July 29, 2012

Byron Berline flipped to Page 254 of the 1976 Greater Oklahoma City phone book.

Locating the surname Gill, he started making calls.

At the time, Berline, a three-time National Fiddle Champion, was living in the San Fernando Valley in Southern California and involved in a band called Sundance. They were looking for a lead singer, preferably a tenor.

He'd heard and introduced himself to a young man at a bluegrass festival in Kentucky. All he knew of the talented 19-year-old was that his name was Vince Gill and he was from Oklahoma City.

Berline had grown up in Grant County along the Oklahoma-Kansas state line. So, they had Oklahoma and a love for music in common.

While visiting his father-in-law in 1976 at Guthrie, Berline grabbed the phone book. There was no Vince Gill so the fiddler started dialing, and kept dialing.

About the 45th listing under Gill was J Stanley Gill.

Longtime friends

“I was calling and calling and Vince's dad answered the phone,” Berline said. “I said, ‘Is this Vince Gill's home?' He said, ‘Yeah, but he's not here. He's playing in Birmingham.' I knew the place he was playing, so I called.”

That led not only to a musical relationship, but a friendship that still thrives between Vince Gill and Berline, who since 1995 has lived in Guthrie. Gill, who lives in Nashville, Tenn., and five years ago was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, is scheduled to be the headliner of the 2012 Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, performing the last day of the Oct. 4-6 event in Guthrie.

“I gave him a chance to do something, got him exposed sort of, then you really do it all on your own,” Berline said. “It's like Bill Monroe and The Dillards gave me an opportunity. You have to take it from there.”

Sundance had been looking for a lead singer for two months, but Berline and fellow band member Allen Wald had remembered Gill. So Berline placed a call to Birmingham, Ala., and Gill said he was interested.

Berline asked the young man to get familiar with an album the band had cut and then come out to California to try out.

“I was so young, 19 years old and going to California was pretty heady,” Gill said. “It was so massive.”

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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To see a video about Byron Berline, Vince Gill and the upcoming Blue Grass Fest, scan the QR code below or go online to

If you go

Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival

• What: The mission of the Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival Inc. is to organize an annual world class festival, to support the bluegrass industry in Oklahoma, to educate the people of Oklahoma and beyond about bluegrass music and its history and dominance in Oklahoma; and to promote the annual festival throughout the state, creating an ongoing state resource that serves Oklahoma's economic development. As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, its primary goal is to support youth through music scholarships and continuing music education opportunities.

• When: Oct. 4-6

• Where: Guthrie

• For more information: Go to


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