The question about Bob Hinkle isn’t what has he done in the music business; rather, the question is, what hasn’t he done?
The Band. The J. Geils Band. Etta James. Harry Chapin. Manfred Mann. The Olsen Twins. Patti LuPone Gallagher. Naked Eyes. In one principal way or another, they were strongly associated with Bob Hinkle.
Hinkle’s casual dress and humble, laid-back demeanor belies the fact that he’s one of the giants in the industry. During a career that spans five decades, the silver-bearded co-founder and manager of White Horse Black Mountain has been a singer, songwriter, recording artist, composer, lyricist, poet, corporate executive, consultant, music writer, artist manager, executive producer, record label founder and president/CEO.
These roles brought Bob in contact with a virtual “who’s who” of the music/entertainment industry as he moved from concert stage to recording studio to corporate office. He negotiated recording and publishing contracts, managed major recording artists, optioned literary works for film and still managed world-wide concert tours, negotiated licenses for feature films, television and merchandising and administered relationships with major talent agencies.
An Asheville native who spent more than 40 years in New York City at the center of popular music, Bob began his career as a performer while in college at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a member of a trio called The Good Earth. When he and his bandmates graduated, they headed straight to New York City where a recording contract awaited them with the DynoVoice label. DynoVoice release the band’s LP, “How Deep Is the Ocean”, which featured Bob as a lead vocalist and on guitar.
Then followed a couple of years touring and recording with The Good Earth. These included being on bills with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels and then being Mitch’s background singers. The group shared bills with Wilson Pickett, Sam the Sham & the Pharaohs, The Four Seasons, the Beach Boys, The Union Gap, Jeff Beck, The Yardbirds, Doc Watson and yes, Bob Hope.
The early 70’s found Hinkle moving directly into the business side of music, serving as Product Manager for Ampex Stereo Tapes and Director of Artists and Repertoire for Ampex Records. As Product Manager one of his duties was to make recommendations about up-and-coming musicians and, even if the didn’t know it, Bob was a great help to Creedence Clearwater Revival and James Taylor.
Key artists on the Ampex label included Todd Rundgren, Jesse Winchester, Speckled Bird and Mason Profitt. Bluesman Furry Lewis also did a live LP for Ampex. From 1972-74 Bob consulted with The Band around the release and marketing of their double live LP Rock of Ages. In the process he also consulted with Capitol Records and Albert Grossman (then manager of Bob Dylan, Janis Joplin, Dr. John, Peter, Paul & Mary, Paul Butterfield and more).
For the next 15+ years, Hinkle and Jeb Hart successfully managed the careers of leading music forces including Harry Chapin, The J. Geils Band, Etta James, Manfred Mann, Patti LuPone, Tom Chapin and others. Hart and Hinkle’s success led to a partnership with on of the other top management firms in the country, Kragen & Co. As partners, the two became significantly involved in the management of Kenny Rogers, Dottie West, Kim Carnew, Gallagher and others.
In 1990, Hinkle became a founding partner of The Children’s Group, a record label for kids and families, heading the US operation. The label launched the award-winning Classical Kids audio and video series including such current kids’ classics as Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mozart’s Magic Fantasy. The Beethoven release won a JUNO for best children’s recording and led to a worldwide distribution agreement with the Bertelsmann Music Group.
In 1992, Bob founded Zoom Express (co-venture with The Bertelsmann Music Group), a New York-based, family-oriented record label. Zoom quickly became a leader in the children’s/family market with such products as the music from Where In the World Is Carmen San Diego, the PBS Kids perennial plus audio and video releases (all platinum sellers) from Mary-Kate and Ashley, the Olsen Twins direct from their child stardom on ABC television’s long-running hit sitcom, Full House. Zoom Express also served as the production/marketing arm of Jim Henson Records.
Zoom Express grossed over $5 million in its first 20 months of operation. The success led Bob to the Vice Presidency of BMG Kids/BMG Video where his area of responsibility was the acquisition of video projects for the group.
Following his stint with BMG, Bob formed his own consulting firm in New York advising a variety of clients including Hallmark Entertainment, The Smithsonian Institution, The All Music guide, The National Interfaith Cable Coalition Infidel Records.
After all this, Bob says that one of the achievements of which he’s most proud was co-producing an event representing the first public appearance of the Dalai Lama in Brooklyn, New York during his first US trip after being from Tibet. It’s a good story.
Returning to his mountain roots in 2006, Hinkle and his then-wife Kim Hughes opened White Horse Black Mountain in November 2008. The space has become more than a music venue. Like Hinkle himself, it has become a true community treasure.