Joe Willie Wilkins

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Joe Willie Wilkins
Born (1921-01-07)January 7, 1921 or 1923
Davenport, Coahoma County, Mississippi, United States
Died March 28, 1979(1979-03-28) (age 56-58)
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genres Memphis blues[1]
Occupation(s) Guitarist, singer, songwriter, musician
Instruments Guitar, vocals
Years active Early 1940s–1981
Labels Various

Joe Willie Wilkins (January 7, 1921[2] or 1923[3] – March 28, 1979)[3][4] was an American Memphis blues guitarist, singer and songwriter.[1] Whilst he influenced contemporaries such as Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk, David Honeyboy Edwards, and Jimmy Rogers,[5] Wilkins' bigger impact was on up and coming guitarists, including Little Milton, B.B. King, and Albert King.[6] Wilkins' songs included "Hard Headed Woman" and "It's Too Bad."


Wilkins was born in Davenport, Coahoma County, Mississippi.[1][6] He grew up on a plantation near Bobo. His father, Papa Frank Wilkins, was a local sharecropper and guitarist, whose friend was the country bluesman, Charley Patton. Young Wilkins learned to play guitar, harmonica and accordion. His early proficiency of the guitar, and slavish devotion to learning from records, earned him the nickname of "Walking Seeburg" (Seeburg Corporation being an early manufacturer of jukebox).[1]

Becoming a well-known musician in the Mississippi Delta, by the early 1940s Wilkins took over from Robert Lockwood, Jr. in Sonny Boy Williamson II's band. In 1941, Wilkins relocated to Helena, Arkansas, and joined both Williamson and Lockwood on KFFA Radio's "King Biscuit Time".[6][7] Through the 1940s Wilkins broadcast regularly playing alongside Williamson, Willie Love, Robert Nighthawk, Elmore James, Memphis Slim, Houston Stackhouse and Howlin' Wolf. His guitar playing appeared on several recordings by Williamson, Love and Big Joe Williams, for the latter of whom he played bass.[1]

For Muddy Waters, Wilkins was noted as the first guitarist from the Delta who played single string guitar riffs without a slide. Later on, Muddy Waters stated: "The man is great, the man is stone great. For blues, like I say, he's the best."[1][6]

Forming The Three Aces with Willie Nix and Love in 1950, he rejoined Williamson at KWEM Radio, which led on to Wilkin's becoming part of the studio band at Sun Records. He was also utilised by Trumpet Records, and as a prominent sideman, Wilkins recorded with Williamson, Love, Nix, Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, Mose Vinson, Joe Hill Louis, Elmore James, and Floyd Jones.[6]

Charley Booker's final recording was as a guest with Wilkins at a 1973 blues festival at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.[8] The same year, Mimosa Records released a single of Wilkin's debut vocal performance. Adamo Records later issued a live album of some of his concert dates.[6]

His working relationship and friendship with Houston Stackhouse endured over the years, with Stackhouse at one time living in the same premises as Wilkins and his wife. Wilkins and Stackhouse played at various blues music festivals, and were part of the traveling Memphis Blues Caravan.[9] After undergoing a colostomy in the late 1970s, Wilkins still continued to perform.[1]

Wilkins is buried near Memphis in the Galilee Memorial Gardens.[6]

Confusion over dates[edit]

There is some confusion over both Wilkins' date of birth and death; various sources quote 1921, 1922 or 1923 as his year of birth, and some cite 1981 for his death. In the latter respect Allmusic erroneously stated "his final performances were an East Coast tour in 1981," and that he died in the week following these engagements.[1]


Song title Recorded by
"Hard Headed Woman" Various artists – Memphis Blues Caravan – Vol. 2
"Leave Me Alone" P.J. Colt


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Chadbourne, Eugene. "Joe Willie Wilkins". Allmusic. Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  2. ^ Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 193. ISBN 978-0313344237. 
  3. ^ a b O'Neal, Jim: Joe Willie Wilkins – 1923–1979.- Living Blues 42 (January/February 1979), pp. 8–9
  4. ^ Huggins, Cilla: Joe Willie Wilkins obituary.- Blues Unlimited 134 (March/June 1979), pp. 12–13
  5. ^ Hay, Fred J. (2001). Goin' Back to Sweet Memphis:Conversations weith the blues (1st ed.). Athens, Georgia: The University of Georgia Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-8203-2732-7. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Trail of the Hellhound: Joe Willie Wilkins". Archived from the original on 2014-08-11. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 
  7. ^ Oliver, Paul (1969). The Story of the Blues (2nd ed.). Massachusetts: Northeastern University Press. p. 171. ISBN 978-0712674928. 
  8. ^ O'Neal, Jim (2003): "Greenville, Mississippi". In The Modern Downhome blues Sessions Vol 1: Arkansas & Mississippi 1951–1952 [CD Booklet]. London: Ace Records, pp. 11–12
  9. ^ Harris, Jeff. "Houston Stackhouse (1910–1980)". Retrieved August 27, 2010. 
  10. ^ "Joe Willie Wilkins | Songs". AllMusic. January 7, 1923. Retrieved 2014-01-26. 

External links[edit]