It's very impressive when you think The Rolling Stones called Byron Berline to record with them.
Berline, of Guthrie, has also recorded with Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Doobie Brothers, Willie Nelson and Rod Stewart, just to drop a few names.
To put it simply, musical legend Berline, given the names with whom he's recorded, is not only an enormously talented, gifted musician, but he also is quite humble and very funny. He's just the kind of person whose easygoing nature makes it fun to be around him.
Berline tells many of his stories in a new book, “Byron Berline: A Fiddler's Diary,” published in April by New Forums Press.
Berline started playing the fiddle at age 5. He ran track for the University of Oklahoma and received a degree in physical education but ended up working in Los Angeles for 26 years. He and his wife moved back to Oklahoma in 1996 and soon opened the Double Stop Fiddle Shop and Music Hall in Guthrie.
Berline's father had been a fiddle collector for many years, but in 1987, Byron started collecting.
In his folksy way, Berline told me about collecting:
“It just kind of gets into you like a rusty fish hook, an old man told me one time,” Berline said. “And it does, you know, I love trading and selling and swapping instruments.”
At his shop in Guthrie, you'll find a rather large selection of violins or fiddles, whatever you prefer to call them. When I asked Berline what's the difference between a violin and a fiddle, he told me, “There's no difference. A lot of people think there's a difference between a fiddle and a violin. So I say what's the difference between a car and an automobile? And they say, ‘Oh, I guess there's nothing.'” And then Berline laughs.
On selected Saturday evenings, you can hear Berline and his very talented band play upstairs in the music hall. He has many season ticket holders, but you can also call in advance to make sure they aren't sold out.
It was Bill Monroe and The Dillards who presented incredible opportunities for Berline.
Berline admits he was in the right place at the right time but had the talent to keep it going. And Berline not only showed his ability, he excelled, and his musical career was off and running.
So many stories
Berline tells a funny story about when The Rolling Stones called and asked if he would record with them.
They flew him to California the day after the call, and Berline found himself in the studio with all the Stones and their producer. They needed Berline's musical talents on “Country Honk,” a country version of “Honky Tonk Women,” from their album called “Let It Bleed.”
They ended up asking Berline to record the song not in the studio, but on the sidewalk right off Sunset Boulevard. Berline said it was getting dark and damp. At one point, he was playing and his bow slipped and made a little sound he wasn't happy with at the time.
But that was the take everyone liked. Berline asked if they heard his bow slip. And they said it was fine. To this day, when Berline hears that song, he can still hear that bow slip.
It is that story and many more that you can read about in his new book. You'll also learn how Berline has appeared in movies and television series. For more information, go online to his website at http://doublestop.com.
Dino Lalli is the producer, a reporter and co-host of the weekly TV travel show “AAA's Discover Oklahoma.”