October 10, 1915 – April 3, 2005 Remembering Don Pierce

Remembering Don Pierce, (October 10, 1915 – April 3, 2005) who during the rock ‘n’ roll era, as bluegrass musicians were losing their major label deals, snapped them up. Pierce owned Starday Records. He’d bought a one-third share of the new company in 1952, and helped make George Jones into the label’s first star. Then, in 1958, he bought out his partners, Jack Starnes (“Star”) and Pappy Daily (“Day”), to become the sole owner. He relocated to Nashville and changed the label’s direction. “I started immediately doing bluegrass,” Pierce said. “I was dealing with the Stanley Brothers, and I had a real feel for it. Starday was the place that the old-timers could get on record. If they were an established act, I wasn’t interested in putting out singles because I couldn’t get them on jukeboxes, but if they’d played 20 years on the Opry, I knew they could sell albums.” He almost single-handedly invented the country LP business and kept old country music alive on record during its darkest hour. No one ever worked a catalog harder. Then, in 1968, Pierce bought King Records and immediately sold both labels. He saw the majors encroaching upon him and decided to parlay his $333 initial investment into a $2 million payday. Believing that Hendersonville would expand, he launched a property development company and never reentered the music business. The old Starday studio and office are still on Dickerson Pike, looking much as they did when he handed over the keys. It was part of Don Pierce’s philosophy that he wanted to be away from Music Row, just one of his good ideas. Each year, an organization known as the Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE) presents its Don Pierce Golden Eagle Award to honor individuals for lifetime career achievements in country music. Its recipients include Dolly Parton, Jimmy Dean and the late Patsy Cline and Merle Kilgore.

About the author

I enjoy researching Bluegrass, Bluegrass Gospel, and Country birthdays, anniversaries and interesting trivia dates. I am a piano/organ performance major who has taught privately and served as church accompanist since 1968 in North Carolina and Central Kentucky. Although classically trained, I appreciate all genres of music. My mother, who was also a church musician and taught public school music grades K-12, knew that Bluegrass music was the purest American music. She always introduced her students to this fine genre and began my musical studies with her at age 2. Bach to Berachah Valley, Mozart to Jimmy Martin, Sibelius to Stanley Brothers, the list goes on, I hope you find some moments of enjoyment and learn a few interesting facts along the way.
I am thankful for the many resources we have at our fingertips including Google. FaceBook and BluegrassBios by Wayne Rice. It was he who inspired me to tackle the task of trying to pass on knowledge about Bluegrass music. Thanks Wayne~!
Lou Ellen Wilkie

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