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