Robert Timothy Wilkins (January 16, 1896 – May 26, 1987) was an American country blues guitarist and vocalist, of African American and Cherokee descent.
His distinction was his versatility; he could play ragtime, blues, minstrel songs, and gospel with equal facility.
- 1 Career
- 2 See also
- 3 References
- 4 External links
Wilkins was born in Hernando, Mississippi, 21 miles from Memphis. He worked in Memphis during the 1920s at the same time as Furry Lewis, Memphis Minnie (whom he claimed to have tutored), and Son House. He also organized a jug band to capitalize on the "jug band craze" then in vogue. Though never attaining success comparable to the Memphis Jug Band, Wilkins reinforced his local popularity with a 1927 appearance on a Memphis radio station. Like Sleepy John Estes (and unlike Gus Cannon of Cannon's Jug Stompers) he recorded alone or with a single accompanist. He sometimes performed as Tom Wilkins or as Tim Oliver (his stepfather's name).
His best known songs are "That's No Way To Get Along" (to which he – an ordained minister since the 1930s – had changed the 'unholy' words to a biblical theme and since titled it "The Prodigal Son", covered under that title by The Rolling Stones), "Rolling Stone", and "Old Jim Canan's". The Stones were forced to credit Wilkins after lawyers had approached the band and asked the credit to be changed. Original pressings of Beggars Banquet had credited only Mick Jagger and Keith Richards as sole composers, not Wilkins.
During the 1960s blues revival, the "Reverend" Robert Wilkins was "rediscovered" by blues enthusiasts Dick and Louisa Spottswood, making appearances at folk festivals and recording his gospel blues for a new audience. These include the 1964 Newport Folk Festival; his performance of "Prodigal Son" there was included on the Vanguard album Blues at Newport, Volume 2.
Wikins died on May 26, 1987 in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 91. His son, Reverend John Wilkins, continues his father's gospel blues legacy.