The official celebration of James Pinkston’s life comes on Wednesday, but the online tributes began immediately when the community learned of his death of Aug. 23.
“There will never be another Mr. Jim Pinkston and there will never be another store like Pinkston Music,” one person wrote.
“When I was young and didn’t have enough money for what I wanted, he would allow me to take the equipment and make payments. Anytime I walked through the doors, he made me feel like a million bucks,” said another.
“Got all 4 of my guitars from him … whether I needed them or not,” someone else joked.
Others suggested a musical tribute to Pinkston at a later date, after the celebration of life Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Riemann Family Funeral Home, 274 Beauvoir Road, Biloxi.
His family requests that instead of flowers, donations be made in his memory to St. Jude to help others with cancer, something Pinkston, 63, fought since 2012.
He announced in March he was closing Pinkston Music on Pass Road in Gulfport after 27 years and privately said he wanted to spend the time he had left with his family.
“He was a great dad, as unconventional as it comes,” says his son, James Pinkston. “We just had such an interesting father-son relationship,” he said. Their last night out together was at midget wresting in Biloxi. They also watched cop shows on TV and his son said, “He was a big heckler, commenting all the way through.”
Pinkston was a union musician in Memphis and traveled around the country, playing backup for Jerry Lee Lewis and other big-name musicians.
“I was a hired gun,” Pinkston told the Sun Herald earlier this year. “I could walk on any stage and play with anyone.”
He couldn’t read music but he could hear a song and play it.
“He was a very awesome bass player but he only knew four guitar chords,” his son said.
“Four chords and you can play 1,000 songs – E, A, D, G,” his father had said. Not many people know 1,000 songs, he said.
When he decided to quit touring, he moved his family to Gulfport and in 1990 opened his first Pinkston Music with $2,000 in savings and a $2,000 mortgage on his life insurance policy. He outgrew that first building as he grew the business into the largest privately-owned guitar shop in the state. He also continued to play professional gigs. He and his wife, Angie, were the house band at Copa Casino and his son said, “I think even pregnant with me they were on stage playing throughout.”
They also have a son, Jason, an Army sergeant stationed in North Carolina.
“He was so proud of his sons, Jason and Jimmy,” said Derek Caswell, who grew up in Gulfport and now is senior vice president of a bank in Oklahoma. He last talked to Pinkston about 10 days before his death and Caswell said, “He had his sons there and was as happy as can be.”
Pinkston gave Caswell a job when he was 15 and taking guitar lessons and hanging out at Pinkston Music. His mentor and his friend for nearly 25 years, Pinkston taught him to treat people right, he said, to do the right thing and work hard. You could buy a guitar strap from any music store, Caswell said, but you wanted to buy it from Jim.
“He was truly special, truly fun and meant the world to so many people,” Caswell said. They shared the same birthday — July 13 — and talked every year. They also visited most every year and in December Caswell brought along his daughter, who just turned 1.
“That was one of the proudest things in my life for Jim to meet her,” he said.
Pinkston had hoped to continue renting band equipment to local students even after he closed Pinkston Music, but his health didn’t allow.
“Jim in the normal Jim fashion said, ‘Give me the cheapest funeral you can,’ ” his son said. He will be cremated and his ashes will go on tour, with some left at the music shop in Gulfport, some scattered near the family home at Memphis, where he said he was “born and raised a Memphis musician,” and some left near his favorite barbecue restaurant in Memphis.
What he left in trust for South Mississippi was the idea that “Music doesn’t have to be a gift. You don’t have to be good at it and can still enjoy it,” he said.
“I’ve had a great run,” he said. “I’ve had the time of my life.”