Funeral services were held Friday (April 8) in Hendersonville, Tenn., for country music pioneer Don Pierce. The former record label executive died Sunday (April 3) at age 89.
Born in Ballard, Wash., Pierce served as sales manager of Four Star Records after his military discharge in 1945. In 1953, he invested in Starday Records and eventually ascended to president of the company. Moving from Los Angeles to Nashville in 1957 when the label partnered with Mercury Records, he gained full control of Starday a year later and began to compile and market albums on bluegrass and old-time music artists — acts that had been largely overlooked by major country labels. Highly regarded for his marketing skills, Pierce built Starday’s sales base by releasing the albums with flashy and colorful cover photos and designs.
According to The Encyclopedia of Country Music, Pierce’s share of Starday, originally purchased for $333, was worth $2 million when he sold it to Lin Broadcasting in 1968. In later years, Pierce worked as a real estate developer in the Nashville area.
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.
Pierce is survived by his wife and a daughter. Pallbearers included Country Music Hall of Fame members Eddy Arnold, George Jones and Carl Smith.