Wilkins performing live during the folk revival days.
|Birth name||Robert Timothy Wilkins|
|Also known as||"Reverend" Robert Wilkins, Tim Wilkins, Tim Oliver|
January 16, 1896|
Hernando, Mississippi, United States
|Died||May 26, 1987
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
|Years active||1920s – 1960s|
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". Led Zeppelin also wrote "Poor Tom", which was believed to have been influenced by "That's No Way To Get Along".
Alarmed by fighting at a party where he was playing, he deserted secular music and he took up the twin careers of herbalist and minister in the Church of God in Christ in the 1930s, and began playing gospel music with a blues feel.
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.
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed July 2010
- "Robert Wilkins". Thebluestrail.com. Retrieved November 19, 2011.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 186. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.