Don Pierce, the former owner of Starday Records
whose marketing concepts helped popularize country music in the early 1950s
and '60s, died of a heart attack Sunday. He was 89.
Pierce was best known for his savvy as a record entrepreneur and
producer who worked with bluegrass and country artists such as
Johnny Cash, Minnie Pearl, Dottie West and George Jones, who got his
start on the Starday label.
Jones remembered Pierce as a man who knew the record business. He said
Pierce promoted country artists when industry critics felt the advent
of rock 'n' roll had all but stamped it out.
"He was very good at what he did," Jones said. "He knew how to promote.
A lot of people don't know his name but they should, because he's one of
the pioneers that did so much to broaden country music. People like him
proved what country music could do and how much people liked it."
A Seattle native, Pierce graduated from the University of Washington
and served in the Army during World War II.
In 1953, he invested $333 in the fledgling Starday Record Co., run
by Harold "Pappy" Daily and Jack Starnes.
He purchased the company in 1958, producing hits such as Alabam for Cowboy Copas
in 1963 and Ten Little Bottles for Johnny Bond in 1965. He also established
the "Don Pierce Golden Eagle Awards" for the Reunion of
Professional Entertainers to honor country stars who had
not been recognized for their musical contributions. Pierce
sold Starday in 1970 and focused on developing real estate.
Pierce was chosen Country Music's Man of the Year in 1959 and was a
founding member of the Country Music Association. He also founded
Music City Pro-Celebrity Golf Invitational and was nominated for
induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
Pierce is survived by his wife, Vadis of Hendersonville; a
daughter, Victoria Pierce Turner of Nashville; and a grandchild.
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