Bob Pinson, one of the world’s foremost scholars and collectors of country music, died at Saint Thomas Hospital in Nashville Thursday (Sept. 4) at the age of 69. He had been suffering from leukemia. From 1973 until his retirement in 2001, Pinson was a researcher and reference librarian for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Two years before he joined its staff, the Museum had purchased his collection of 15,000 country music disc recordings. Building upon the core collection, Pinson was primarily responsible for enlarging and caring for the Museum’s record collection, which now includes approximately 200,000 recorded discs, including cylinders, 78s, 45s, LPs and CDs. With a limited budget, Pinson built the collection through donations, exchange agreements with the Library of Congress and purchases made with an acquisitions fund he created himself by auctioning duplicate recordings.
Earlier, he had served on the original board of advisors for the John Edwards Memorial Foundation (then housed at UCLA, now at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.)
Born April 29, 1934, Pinson began collecting country music in his native Texas during the 1940s and continued the practice when he moved to California. Besides collecting commercially made records, he also made field trips to the South to interview such music industry pioneers as fiddler Clayton McMichen and Knocky Parker of the Light Crust Doughboys. His research assistance and personal knowledge were crucial to the creation of many historical collections, including the Grammy-winning 10-CD Complete Hank Williams and the Grammy-nominated The Bristol Sessions. One of his final projects was serving as discographical advisor and editorial collaborator with Tony Russell on the monumental reference work, Country Music Records: A Discography, 1921-1942, soon to be published by Oxford University Press.
Bill Malone, author of the landmark Country Music USA, said of Pinson, “[He] sought me out during the early stages of my dissertation research, when he was a private collector in Southern California, and has ever since been unselfish in his aid and encouragement. Bob knows more than the rest of us, but has written less.”
Pinson is survived by his wife Gladys. Funeral arrangements are incomplete, but he will be buried in a private ceremony at Nashville’s Woodlawn Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, friends may make donations to the Tennessee Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.