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The Traditional Delta and Country Blues

Robert Wilkins

Memphis-based country blues artist famed for “Prodigal Son” and “Rolling Stone”.

Robert Timothy Wilkins, b. January 16, 1896 in Hernando, MS, d. May 26, 1987 in Memphis, TN. Wilkins moved to Memphis during World War I, and by the 20s was playing his guitar and singing in the blues joints of Beale Street. Between 1928 and 1934, he made a series of excellent recordings, which showed a carefully crafted approach, tailoring his finger-picking accompaniments to suit the lyrics as well as the tunes. Some of his records were issued under his middle name, Tim. There was a 30-year gap before he recorded again, following rediscovery in the days of the folk/blues boom. By this time he had renounced blues and played only religious music, having been ordained a minister in 1950. His overall style was much the same, and ‘Prodigal Son’ was later covered by the Rolling Stones.

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