Reverend John Wilkins confirmed for Grolsch Blues Festival30-01-2020
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning mark a great divide in African American culture, and Reverend John Wilkins has stood on both sides. Today he’s a guitar- wielding Baptist preacher, but as a young man he played the blues and soul in his native Memphis.
“I haven’t quit dancing—I just changed partners,” explains Wilkins, who believes that sacred and secular music both express essential human truths. “People got to realize I listen to blues. That ain’t gonna send me to hell—the way I live is what’s gonna send me to hell.”
Wilkins’ father, Mississippi native Robert “Tim” Wilkins, recorded blues in the ‘20s and ‘30s before becoming a minister in the Church of God in Christ. In the 1960s he recorded “Prodigal Son,” a religious reworking of his 1928 blues “That’s No Way to Get Along,” which the Rolling Stones covered on Beggar’s Banquet.
Reverend Wilkins’ musical vision was shaped by growing up in his father’s church, but as a prodigal son he played at country jukes in Mississippi, backed blues legends at the Memphis Country Blues Festival, sat in at Stax sessions, and recorded behind artists including soul great O.V. Wright—that’s Wilkins’ guitar on the classic “You Gonna Make Me Cry.”
Wilkins never strayed too far from the church, though, and from the ‘60s through the early ‘80s played with the M&N Gospel Singers. By the mid-‘80s he was an ordained minister, presiding over Hunter’s Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Como, Mississippi, whose members once included Mississippi Fred McDowell. He’s still there, preaching via kindness and humor rather than fire and brimstone, and follows the Biblical admonition to “make a joyful noise unto the Lord.”
On Trouble, his second album, Wilkins returns to his Memphis roots, recording in his longtime neighborhood at the legendary Royal Studios with Willie Mitchell’s son Boo at the helm. Keyboardist Reverend Charles Hodges is a member of the Hi Rhythm Section, the crack studio unit Willie Mitchell employed for hits by Al Green, while drummer Steve Potts and bassist Jimmy Kinnard’s many credits both include work with Green and Isaac Hayes. Memphis native and touring guitar player, Kevin Cubbins rounds out the rhythm section.
And perhaps most importantly, like Pops Staples and the Staple Singers, to Wilkins it’s also a family affair—he’s passed on the musical torch to his daughters Tangela, Joyce, and Tawana. Their warm and distinctive harmonies capture the call and response quality of their father’s services and lend a r&b/soul vibe to Wilkins’ gospel blues.
We're excited to announce Reverend John Wilkins will be making his way over to Europe and was confirmed for a festival show late May:
31/05: Schöppingen, DE - Grolsch Blues Festival