Jon A. Pinder, a convicted drug dealer who later turned his life around and became a successful Baltimore music promoter, died Aug. 4 in his sleep at his brother's Upper Marlboro home. He was 60.
"Jon was not a musician, but he knew good music when heard it," said Bobbi "Bb" Booker, a music and entertainment reporter at the Philadelphia Tribune and a close friend of 20 years. "He really had his fingers on the pulse and knew the dynamics of the Baltimore music scene, which he loved. He was a cheerleader for all of the folks he cared for."
"If you were really in music, then you knew who Pinder was. He was a big deal not just in Baltimore but beyond America," said Dan "Hollywood" Brown, a Baltimore music promoter.
"He was a trailblazer and a visionary and had promoted shows with the Rolling Stones and Patti Labelle, for instance," he said. "And whenever he was watching an artist perform, he had a catchphrase, 'Now that's a demonstration.'"
Mr. Pinder's road to success had an inauspicious beginning.
In 1971, while a student at James M. Bennett Senior High School in Salisbury, he became involved in the music business with Steve Talbert & Associates, and was involved with the production of Edgar Winter's "White Trash," Ted Nugent and The Amboy Dukes, Rick Derringer, The Cherry People and Nils Lofgren at the Ocean City Convention Center.
Three years later, he was a fugitive. After he was arrested in Ocean City in August 1974 at age 19 and charged with distribution of cocaine, he jumped bail and fled to California. He was recaptured and sentenced to a 10-year term at the Maryland Correctional Institution in Hagerstown.
"Jon had never finished high school and enrolled in the GED program in prison and then earned an associate's degree from Hagerstown Junior College," said his brother, Anthony Pinder of Upper Marlboro.
Mr. Pinder, who compiled an exemplary record while incarcerated, was paroled in 1978 and participated in an ex-offenders' program at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County with other inmates who had similar records.
He earned a bachelor's degree in 1983 in photography and mass communication.
In a 1979 interview with The Baltimore Sun, Mr. Pinder recalled his past life as a drug dealer when he had plenty of money.
"Every day I'm tempted by money, prestige and females. I never wanted for anything. I was raised under the false impression I could have anything I wanted. Now I'm struggling," he said. "Every day it's a struggle. I know I can get back into drugs, but if I do that I face 40 years. We're capable of doing things, we just need a chance."
While a student at UMBC, he became director of special events for the Student Government Association and founded in 1980 Quadmania, a weeklong annual spring carnival that features a well known music group or singer, and is now in its 35th year.
While working for Steve Talbert & Associates, Mr. Pinder worked with many national acts, including ZZ Top, B.B. King, Iggy Pop, Climax Blues Band, Buddy Miles, Lyrynryd Skynyrd, the Allman Brothers, and the Marshall Tucker Band, which played the Baltimore Civic Center, the old Capital Centre in Largo, the Philadelphia Spectrum and numerous East Coast clubs.
After leaving Steve Talbert Associates in 1973, he worked with Dick Klotzman and his company at the time, American Productions, producing shows at the Baltimore Civic Center and the old Painters Mill Music Fair in Owings Mills, where he also had been in charge of security and was responsible for getting performing artists on and off stage without incident.
In 1979, Mr. Pinder established the Most Wanted Management Group, and by the 1980s, had moved into hip-hop by promoting the first Swatch Watch Music Festival nationwide.
While a student at UMBC, he began managing the Baltimore band Smile in 1981, which he did for four years until they parted company.
By the 1990s, he was managing Faustin Lenon, a Baltimore rapper who is better known as Sagat, his stage name. Together, the two men helped steer Sagat's "Why Is It? (Funk Dat)" into an international hit in 1994.
"He took this kid — Sagat from 33rd and Belvedere — and made him an international star," said Mr. Brown. "A lot of stars have come out of Baltimore."
"He was able to see and help guide them through the creative process," said Ms. Booker. "He had an enthusiasm for all kinds of music and that was infectious."
During his 40-year-career, Mr. Pinder worked with some of the most important personalities in the music and movie business, including Smokey Robinson, The Electric Light Orchestra, Peabo Bryson, Keith Richards, David Bowie, Kathleen Turner and Chrissie Hynde, said Ms. Booker.
Mr. Pinder, who lived near Druid Hill Park, was also much a much-in-demand event photographer whose work found its way to numerous news outlets including The Philadelphia Tribune.
"It was Pinder who turned me onto the Baltimore music scene, which is a hidden jewel. I began coming to Baltimore twice a month because of his enthusiasm," said Ms. Booker. "And the music that emanates in Baltimore is not just a one-note sound."
He also established two other companies, Street Legal Entertainment and its nonprofit arm, Caring For Others, which helped support those working in the music business.
"He cared not only for the artists but all of the people behind the scenes and other promoters," said Ms. Booker.
Jon Alston Pinder, the son of John Pinder, a correctional officer, and Virginia Pinder, a homemaker, was born in Memphis. He was raised in Baltimore and in Nanticoke, Wicomico County.
He was the grandson of a former slaveowner's son in Mississippi, and was a descendant of Harriet Tubman, a Dorchester County slave who later became a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad.
Mr. Pinder, who was universally known as "Pinder," had not retired at his death.
For his work, he was given a key to Ocean City in 1981, and two years later, Mayor William Donald Schaefer presented him a silver Baltimore Is Best award.
"The color of the act had no bearing on the outcome of the date as long as the music was good," Mr. Pinder wrote in an unpublished memoir. "MUSIC has always been the common denominator in bringing people together, regardless of the social feelings of the time. MUSIC IS COLOR BLIND."
Funeral services for Mr. Pinder will be held at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the March Funeral Home, 4300 Wabash Ave.
In addition to his brother, he is survived by his daughter, Porsha Pinder of Camp Hill, Pa.; and many cousins and friends.