It might not be the same iconic Double Stop Fiddle Shop that stood as a cornerstone of Americana for a quarter century, but the spirit of Byron Berline filled the music hall on a Saturday night in November.
The Hunt Brothers Band — now the shop’s house band — recorded a live performance there which will soon become the band’s first full-length album.
Like a live version of Hee Haw, the band kept fans laughing between each song and told some stories as they laid down one bluegrass and roots country song after another.
Byron Berline, a legendary fiddle and mandolin virtuoso as well as the founder of Double Stop Trolley Shop, died in summer 2021.
“It is so meaningful to us it’s beyond expression really. We have a long history of hanging out here. We took lessons here starting at 8 and 11 years old, of course that was at the original building across the street,” fiddle and mandolin player Andrew Hunt said.
“When we were kids Byron would have us get on stage and play with the band. Eventually he had us stay on stage for the entire second half of the show. We learned how to perform live and even improvise from those experiences. I would say it’s just been an honor to have these opportunities,” banjo and guitar player Jonathan Hunt said.
Born in Caldwell, Kan., Berline began playing the fiddle when he was just 5 years old. Quickly developing his talent, he recorded and toured with a lengthy list of legendary performers, including The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Elton John, The Eagles, The Byrds, John Denver, Rod Sterwart, Vince Gill, Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams, just to name a few from the top of the list.
A three-time National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Championship winner, he had movie roles in Basic Instinct and The Rose. He appeared on the aforementioned Hee Haw as well Star Trek: The Next Generation and made a 1979 Austin City Limits appearance with Marty Stuart.
“He just knew what notes to play for a song,” Byron’s daughter, Becca Berline, said the night of the Hunt Brothers show. “I saw him play a session once for a Disney movie and it took him about five minutes, and they said, ‘Okay, that’s good.’”
In 1995, after moving here from southern California, he opened Double Stop Fiddle Shop, which became a favorite place for pickers from around the world to stop by and purchase their instruments and jam with whomever might be there.
“His talent was that he could walk into any kind of session and fit a fiddle break to whatever kind of music it was. And that is what kept him busy and the spotlight. We were married for 53 amazing, wonderful years,” Betty Berline, Byron’s widow, added.
In February 2019, a stray cigarette set Double Stop alight, along with dozens of coveted instruments inside. A single prized mandolin, locked inside a safe, was all that survived the fire. In a show of community support, the people of Guthrie pitched in to help finance a new location across the street from the original shop, where the Hunt Brothers record, set to be released in early 2023, was recorded.
“It means a lot to carry on what Byron was doing. I think he would be glad to know it’s still going on,” guitarist Samuel Grounds said.