Joe Willie Wilkins

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Joe Willie Wilkins (January 7, 1921 March 28, 1981) was an American Memphis blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. Whilst he influenced contemporaries such as Houston Stackhouse, Robert Nighthawk, David Honeyboy Edwards, and Jimmy Rogers, Wilkins' bigger impact was on up and coming guitarists, including Little Milton, B.B. King, and Albert King. Wilkins' songs included 'Hard Headed Woman' and 'It's Too Bad.'

Joe Willie WilkinsBiography

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 jukebox).

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 reloacted to Helena, Arkansas, and joined both Williamson and Lockwood on KFFA Radio's 'King Biscuit Time'. 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.

For Muddy Waters, Wilkins was noted as the first guitarist from the Delta who played single string guitar riffs without a slide. Later on Waters stated

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.

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.

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


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