Born 10 February 1920, Chestnut Mountain, Virginia, USA. Tinsley learned guitar when he was 11, and from the age of 18 played at social events. He also composed personal blues, including one arising from a 1949 incident when he shot and wounded his stepfather. In 1952 Tinsley recorded a 78 with Fred Holland for a local label, but its failure to sell induced him to stop playing blues by 1955. In 1977, he resumed playing with the encouragement of blues music researchers, made some likeable recordings and visited Europe a couple of times, despite a dispute with a Danish promoter on the first occasion.