J. D. Wilkes

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J.D. Wilkes
Wilkes in 2007
Background information
Born (1972-04-18) April 18, 1972 (age 44)
Baytown, Texas, United States
Genres Rockabilly, country blues, southern gothic
Occupation(s) Musician, artist, filmmaker, author
Instruments Vocals, harmonica, banjo
Labels YepRoc, Alternative Tentacles, Bloodshot, Colonel Knowledge, Arkam, Thirty Tigers
Associated acts Legendary Shack Shakers
The Dirt Daubers
Reverend Horton Heat
Hank Williams III
The Dixiecrats

Joshua "J. D." Wilkes (born April 18, 1972, Baytown, Texas, United States) is an American visual artist, musician, amateur filmmaker and author.[1] He probably best known as the singer for experimental rockabilly group Legendary Shack Shakers, and is also an accomplished harmonica player, having recorded for such artists as Merle Haggard, John Carter Cash, Mike Patton, and Hank Williams III in the American Masters film "Hank Williams: Honky Tonk Blues".[2] His song "Swampblood" can be heard on the Grammy-nominated soundtrack for HBO's True Blood series. Wilkes is a resident of Paducah, Kentucky and is the author of two books, The Vine That Ate The South and Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky.


Wilkes is known as the founder and only remaining original member of the Legendary Shack Shakers, a rockabilly/blues band he formed in Murray, Kentucky, in the mid 1990s. Before forming the band, Wilkes was a performer on the paddle wheeler Paducah Jubilee. He also played harmonica for the act "Popularity Showboat" at the Eddyville State Penitentiary.

Regarding the Shack Shaker's "southern gothic" lyricism, Billboard Magazine said "(Wilkes writes) mind-blowing lyrics rife with Biblical references and ruminations of life, death, sin and redemption."[3]

Wilkes is a Kentucky Colonel.[4]

Wilkes' contributions to the visual arts include many illustrations, comic strips, and sideshow banners. His satirical "Head Cheese" strip was seen in the Nashville RAGE/Metromix weekly from 2005 to 2008. Other illustrative works by Wilkes have been seen in Juxtapoz, Snicker, ALARM Magazine, and TopShelfComix.com.[5] Wilkes illustrated the book "Spookiest Stories Ever" for the University Press of Kentucky, released in 2010.[6]

In October 2013, The History Press published Wilkes' book Barn Dances and Jamborees Across Kentucky, a history of traditional music get-togethers in the Bluegrass State.[7] Independent publisher Two-Dollar Radio announced it would release Wilkes's novel "The Vine That Ate The South" in early 2017.[8] He holds a bachelor's degree in Studio Art from Kentucky's Murray State University.[9]

In 2006, Wilkes, began work on a documentary film titled Seven Signs, that explored "music, myth, and the American South."[10] The film premiered on December 30, 2007, at the Belcourt Theatre in Nashville, Tennessee and debuted in the UK at London's prestigious Raindance Film Festival.[11] In early 2009, Wilkes formed The Dirt Daubers, an old-time roots-influenced side project with his wife, Jessica, and "Slow" Layne Hendrickson. The band's self-titled debut was released in October 2009. They are now referred to as JD Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers.

Occasionally, Wilkes and the Shack Shakers appear in the Danish theatrical production F.U.B.A.R., a production of Copenhagen's Mute Comp Theatre. The play, which tackles the subject of illegal gun trade around the globe, features a speaking part by J.D. He also reprised his "gothic preacher" character (developed for Shooter Jennings' The Real Me video) when he acted as the presenter at the 2013 Addy Awards in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In May 2014, Wilkes was selected by mayor Gayle Kaler to represent his home city of Paducah, Kentucky in a cultural exchange with The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Ireland. Wilkes was met by author/actor/playwright and deputy Lord Mayor Gerard Mannix Flynn at the Mansion House in Dublin, where the two exchanged gifts as part of a UNESCO-sponsored reception. Flynn was given a quilt from Paducah's MAQS museum and a copy of Wilkes' book on barn dances. Wilkes was provided with a copy of Flynn's novel and other literature to present to Paducah's mayor Gayle Kaler.[12]



  • Seven Signs (2007)
  • BBC's Songs of the South (2015)


  1. ^ "An Interview With JD Wilkes of Th' Legendary Shack*Shakers". Punkmusic.about.com. March 5, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  2. ^ Chet Flippo (September 27, 2007). "News : NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Haggard Goes Bluegrass". CMT. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  3. ^ "SeptDigital – 0025". US-NY: Myvirtualpaper.com. June 14, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  4. ^ http://www.thevinyldistrict.com/storefront/2014/09/tvd-interview-col-j-d-wilkes-legendary-shack-shakers/
  5. ^ "J.D. Wilkes / Top Shelf 2.0". Topshelfcomix.com. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  6. ^ [1][dead link]
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ http://twodollarradio.com/products/the-vine-that-ate-the-south
  9. ^ "Orange Hill Folk Art Gallery and Outsider Art Gallery – Artists". Orangehillart.com. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  10. ^ "Thirsty : October 2006 : Col. JD Wilkes Featured Interview". Staythirstymedia.com. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  11. ^ [3] Archived July 8, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "J.D. Wilkes part of UNESCO program visits Dublin, US touring with Dirt Daubers". Bmetrack.com. April 23, 2014. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

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