Robert Wilkins

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For other people named Robert Wilkins, see Robert Wilkins (disambiguation).
Robert Wilkins
Robert Wilkins.jpg
Wilkins performing live during the folk revival days.
Background information
Birth name Robert Timothy Wilkins
Also known as "Reverend" Robert Wilkins, Tim Wilkins, Tim Oliver
Born (1896-01-16)January 16, 1896
Hernando, Mississippi, United States
Died May 26, 1987(1987-05-26) (aged 91)
Memphis, Tennessee, United States
Genres Country blues[1]
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Guitar
Years active 1920s–1960s
Labels Vanguard

Robert Timothy Wilkins (January 16, 1896 – May 26, 1987)[2] was an American country blues guitarist and vocalist,[1] of African American and Cherokee descent.[3]

His distinction was his versatility; he could play ragtime, blues, minstrel songs, and gospel with equal facility.[3]


Wilkins was born in Hernando, Mississippi,[2] 21 miles from Memphis. He performed in Memphis and north Mississippi during the 1920s and early 1930s, 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. From 1928 to 1936 he recorded for Victor and Brunswick Records, alone or with a single accompanist, like Sleepy John Estes, and unlike Gus Cannon of Cannon's Jug Stompers. He sometimes performed as Tom Wilkins or as Tim Oliver (his stepfather's name).

In 1936 he quit the blues after witnessing a murder where he played, and joined the church. In 1950 he was ordained.[4] In 1964 Wilkins was "rediscovered" by blues revival enthusiasts Dick and Louisa Spottswood, making appearances at folk festivals and recording his gospel blues for a new audience.[3] These include the 1964 Newport Folk Festival; his performance of "Prodigal Son" there was included on the Vanguard Records album Blues at Newport, Volume 2. In 1964 he also recorded his first full album, Piedmont Records' Rev. Robert Wilkins: Memphis Gospel Singer. Another full session was recorded live at the 1969 Memphis Country Blues Festival, and released in 1993 as "...Remember Me".

Wilkins died on May 26, 1987 in Memphis, Tennessee, at the age of 91.[2] His son, Reverend John Wilkins, continues his father's gospel blues legacy.[5]

His best known songs are "That's No Way To Get Along" and his reworked gospel version, "The Prodigal Son", which was covered under that title by The Rolling Stones, as well as "Rolling Stone", and "Old Jim Canan's". The Stones were forced to credit "The Prodigal Son" to 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.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Doc Rock. "New Entries". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  3. ^ a b c "Robert Wilkins". Retrieved November 19, 2011. 
  4. ^ Daniel Beaumont (2011). Preachin' the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House. Oxford University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-19-975312-3. 
  5. ^ "Reverend John Wilkins | Big Legal Mess". Retrieved 2014-06-27. 
  6. ^ Tony Glover (1969-03-01). "The Rolling Stones' Prodigal Son: A Song Confusion | Music News". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2014-06-27. 

External links[edit]