Wilkins was born in Davenport, Coahoma County, Mississippi. 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
Charley Booker's final recording was as a guest with Wilkins at a 1973 blues
festival at Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. 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.
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. After
undergoing a colostomy in the late 1970s, Wilkins still continued to perform
until his final East Coast tour in 1981.
Wilkins is buried near Memphis in the Galilee Memorial Gardens.
Confusion over dates
There is some confusion over both the precise date of birth, and death, for
Wilkins. Various sources quote 1923 as his year of birth, and many cite 1979
for his death. However, in the latter respect Allmusic stated 'his final
performances were an East Coast tour in 1981, and he died in the week
following these engagements.