Pitt Kinsolving

(September 22, 1932 - April 3, 2016)

Pitt KinsolvingPitt Kinsolving died at 6:30am, Sunday, April 3, 2016, after a multiyear battle with cancer.


By Rex Mayreis

Pitt Kinsolving, a man with a most distinguished name, is known for organizing folk music events, as well as getting musicians together to make music. While engineering sound for recordings, performances, and other live programs has been his profession, he has been an important force in bringing folk music to Southern California through his volunteer efforts in planning and promoting concerts and festivals, and in his active participation in hoots.

Pitt was born in New Jersey, but he found folk music when he moved to Connecticut at age 14 and realized that cowboys were singing about their own lives and he liked that a lot. He found that there is a rich tradition of folk music that we can all share and he began to learn how to play a couple of instruments. His interests transitioned from being a race car driver and auto mechanic (though he still likes both) to singing and playing instruments. He gave music lessons and he later found his career in sound engineering and recording work. He first became active in hootenannies and folk music groups in Connecticut and New York, and then in 1979, he came to California with his banjo on his knee… and his guitar, dulcimer, and autoharp. By this time, he was engineering music recordings for such musicians as Chris Proctor. While working with Wes Dooley at Audio Engineering Associates in Pasadena, he began a live concert series in an acoustically perfect room there, presenting such performers as Dougie MacLean (from Scotland), and the Phil Salazar Band. He did bookings and sound engineering for the Caltech Folk Music Society for a few years in the mid 1980s, at a critical time, giving the group of inexperienced volunteers who were trying to keep that organization going, a touch of experience, class, and professionalism. He also shared sound duties for another fine series, Terry Slegr’s Bound for Glory, at the Sportsman’s Lodge on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City.

Pitt first got involved with the Topanga Banjo•Fiddle Contest by working the sound board there around 1995, and when longtime leader, Dorian Keyser, announced his departure, Pitt was one of the people who helped keep that festival going, serving as president, vice president, and board member at various times for well over 10 years. The Pasadena Folk Music Society (formerly the Caltech Folk Music Society) continues to consult with Pitt and still uses a sound board that came from him. He has been a member of Songmakers and he continues to be one of the regulars at the Santa Monica Traditional Folk Music Club.

An appreciation from fellow sound engineer, Tom Hall

By Tom Hall

Pitt was a vibrant, vital presence in many lives. He remained active well after his 83rd birthday, finally becoming bedridden only after a car collision, while driving one of his beloved MGB-GTs, on his way home from a hospital stay.

Cars, particularly sports cars, and particularly British sports cars, were one of Pitt's first loves. Before developing the musical talent and skills for which so many knew him, he was a sports car mechanic and race driver. He remained a car lover throughout his life, regularly attending the monthly gathering at Golden Cove, overlooking the Pacific, well into his 82nd year.

Perhaps more people knew him for his love of music, particularly folk music. Pitt's bold baritone graced festivals and music clubs. But it was just the end result of study, practice and a love of music. Pitt made some of the instruments he played, and left behind a partially completed hammer dulcimer.

The music library he left behind includes classical, opera, pop and a large collection of Spanish and related Latin LPs, in addition to innumerable folk recordings. Similarly he collected books on music of all sorts. His musical interests, whether known to others or not, were very broad.

Pitt was also an accomplished recording and PA engineer, making other people sound good, perhaps better than they otherwise might have. He continued recording work until just before that final, fateful car collision. His knowledge of both music theory and the practical issues of performing made him a better engineer.

Pitt had strong social and political opinions. He was an unshakeable acolyte of Ayn Rand. When I last saw him, on Tuesday evening, March 29, he had recovered enough strength and presence of mind to be back expounding the superiority of Rand's views over my well known, more liberal sentiments. I took this feistiness as an indication that he was recovering strength and health.

His doctors also felt that he was gaining strength - sufficiently to schedule him for a minor surgical procedure last Wednesday. I'm not a medical person, but I fear that the strain of that surgery may have hastened his passing. When I saw him, however, he was looking forward to the surgery, and to what he believed would be an improvement in his situation. People to whom I have spoken, who visited with him after the surgery indicate that he had been doing poorly since the procedure.

For the past 15-16 years, Pitt shared an apartment with a disabled, multiple stroke survivor. When his roommate was struck by a truck, while riding his bicycle, a few years ago, Pitt took over complete management of the roommate's finances, then his daily care, grocery shopping, etc. The roommate was 11 years younger than Pitt, and not suffering from cancer.

Pitt's work on behalf of his (very non-musical) roommate might be seen by some as simple pragmatism - keeping the roommate alive to maintain his veteran's and social security income to make the apartment viable. But anyone familiar with the energy Pitt poured into the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest & Folk Festival, and other musical endeavors, without compensation, or, when there was any compensation, too little compensation for the work done, knows that Pitt's conduct was at least as much a matter of his personal generosity and belief in helping people who needed it.

In the past few years, as he battled cancer and had to work less and less, many members of the So. Cal. folk music community returned Pitt's generosity in his hours of need. It was always a matter of principle for him to acknowledge, with gratitude the help that he received.

I expect that Pitt Kinsolving will live for decades to come in the memories and shared stories of the people who knew him. I was there when his beloved MGB-GTs were taken away by a man, with his young son eagerly there 'helping'. We may hope that, like folk music, they will be lovingly cared for and passed down to a new generation to enjoy as Pitt enjoyed them.


Tom Hall

Editor’s note: Pitt had been is a domestic partner with Lisa Null in 1973 when she and Pat Sky started Green Linnet records. Pitt was their recording engineer.

From Issue 102 of The Living Tradition magazine in the UK:

I started Green Linnet in 1973 - I’d bought a home in New Canaan Connecticut and was looking for the sort of work that would keep me involved in folk music while raising two sons. My domestic partner, Pitt Kinsolving (a music teacher who built dulcimers and banjos) and I had a regular singing gig at Brock’s Irish Pub in Norwalk: $75 a night and all the steak we could eat for five sets of 20 minutes each. We practically memorised the Clancy Brothers Songbook and did a good job of rousing the audience - at least at first. The more I got into Irish music, however - the airs and Irish emigration ballads - the more contemplative our audiences grew. Unfortunately, they stopped drinking whiskey, preferring to sip one or two Irish coffees long into the night. Good for the singer, bad for the bar.

A friend, Patsy Margolin, put us in touch with Pat Sky, a brilliantly successful singer-songwriter and folksinger from the mid-sixties, who now devoted himself to Irish piping and reed-making. Pat became my partner at Green Linnet and Pitt became our recording engineer at Golden East Recording Studio. Through Pat’s connections, we first put out one album of Pat Sky, two albums of Peter Bellamy (including The Barrack Room Ballads), Rosalie Sorrels (The Lonesome Roving Wolves) and went off to Ireland to work on Pat’s pet project, Forty Years Of Irish Piping - an anthology of Seamus Ennis’s uilleann piping. During our time away, a new bartender took over our gig at Brock’s Irish Pub, and by the time we returned, he had restored whisky-drinking to its former glory. Audiences roared and sang out to Johnson’s Motor Car and all the old Irish vaudeville songs. Our own time at Brock’s was at an end.

But what a trip to Ireland we had! While Pitt and Pat went out at night, I spent a lot of time with Seamus Ennis, whose health was failing. He had been sharing a flat with the piper, Liam O’Flynn, who was only too happy to step out for a while and leave me to care for his housemate, Seamus. Maybe it was only a few hours for a few days, but it could as well have been a lifetime. After I’d sat in on the singing competitions at the Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann, I was quite depressed because I did not see how, as an American, I could ever master the art of sean nos singing. “You can’t,” said Seamus bluntly. “Even when good sean nos singers are not native Gaelic speakers, they have the accents and stresses from that language in their bones. You don’t.” But he suggested that there was a wealth of Irish songs in America, particularly in New England and the Northeast, where my own accent and way of speaking would guide me more intuitively into where to place the ornaments and how best to interpret the songs. He went on and I went on, talking about where to find the songs, where they came from, how to sing them. Some of his ideas I have discarded, most I have kept, but it was the best voice lesson I ever had.

Returning from Ireland, Pitt and I began performing more frequently together on the local folk circuit. By now, I was learning ballad after ballad and lament after lament. I could not help it, the melodies overwhelmed me. I also began putting together thematic and historical workshops for WBAI, New York City’s Pacifica network radio station.

Pitt is listed as recording engineer on the following albums:

Peter Bellamy - Peter Bellamy ‎(LP, Album) Green Linnet SIF 1001 1975

Peter Bellamy - Peter Bellamy ‎(LP, Album) Green Linnet, Innisfree SIF 1001 1975

Patrick Sky - Two Steps Forward, One Step Back ‎(LP, Album) Leviathan Records SLIF-2000 1975

Tommy Reck - The Stone In The Field ‎(LP, Album) Innisfree SF 1008 1977

Shadowfax - Shadowfax Windham Hill Records 1982 Peter Bellamy - Fair Annie ‎(2xCD, RE, RM) Fellside Recordings FECD187 2004

Séamus Ennis* - Forty Years Of Irish Piping ‎(CD, RE) Green Linnet GLCD 1000 2010

Peter Bellamy - Peter Bellamy ‎(LP, Album) Green Linnet SIF 1001