Elder Roma Wilson

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Elder Roma Wilson
Born (1910-12-22) December 22, 1910 (age 104)
Hickory Flat, Mississippi, United States
Genres Gospel[1]
Occupation(s) Harmonicist, singer, clergyman
Instruments Harmonica
Years active 1930s–present

Elder Roma Wilson (born December 22, 1910) is an American gospel harmonica player and singer.[1] A clergyman, Wilson discovered he had a degree of notability later in his life, having originally been unaware of interest in his work.


Wilson was born in Hickory Flat, Mississippi, United States,[1] and his father was one-half Muscogee.[2] Wilson was a self-taught harmonica player in his early teens, having utilised the discarded instruments of his elder siblings (he had five brothers and four sisters). He developed an unusual "choking" style, based around the difficulty of soliciting sounds from his well-worn equipment.[1] By the age of fifteen, Wilson was working on the railroad and later at a local sawmill. Wilson married at the age of nineteen. His faith saw him become an ordained minister in the Pentecostal church in 1929, and he joined with the self-styled Reverend Leon Pinson, who played the guitar, in traveling across North Mississippi, both playing and preaching. They developed a strong church following, before Wilson moved to Michigan in 1940 and later to Detroit. He continued his musical interests playing on street corners, which ultimately led to his unbeknownst twist of fate. In 1948, he played in a local record store on Hastings Street, and was recorded by the shop owner. The owner subsequently allowed the tracks to be released, and students of Wilson's style of playing were intrigued. Wilson remained blissfully unaware of the attention.[1][2]

Following the death of his first wife, Wilson moved back to Mississippi and remarried in 1977. By 1989, and following a chance telephone call, Wilson reactivated his playing partnership with Pinson. Finally, he became aware of the global interest in his earlier 'recordings', which he heard for the first time in 1991. Capitalizing on the notability, he and Pinson started to play at music festivals, including the Chicago Blues Festival and New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.[1][2]

In 1993, Wilson was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, and recorded the bulk of what turned out to be his debut album.[1]

The majority of tracks on his 1995 LP, This Train, were recorded when Wilson was in his early eighties. The sides contained a mixture of solo efforts, some accompanied by his wife or with a church choir, and included "Ain't It a Shame," "This Train Is a Clean Train," and "Amazing Grace." The album also included the six harmonica dominated pieces, unwittingly recorded with his own children in 1948.[3]


Year Album title Record label
1995 This Train Arhoolie Records


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Jason Ankeny. "Elder Roma Wilson". Allmusic. Retrieved October 28, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Young, Alan (1997). Woke me up this morning: Black gospel singers and the gospel life (1st ed.). Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. pp. 15–25. ISBN 0-87805-943-1. 
  3. ^ a b "This Train - Elder Roma Wilson | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. 1994-11-23. Retrieved 2014-01-31.