Memphis bluesman Reverend John Wilkins dies at 76

Wilkins' second and final solo album, Trouble, was released last month.

Reverend John Wilkins – Memphis bluesman, preacher and the son of pre-war blues artist Reverend Robert Wilkins – has died at 76.

News of his death was confirmed by his record label, Goner Records, who posted a statement on social media. “It is with a heavy heart and great sadness to share that Rev. John Wilkins passed away this morning,” the statement read.

“It was an honour to know the Reverend and get to work with him in the small capacity that we did. His smile could light up the whole room.” Read Goner Records’ full statement below.

Born in Memphis, Tennessee, John Wilkins would follow in his father’s musical footsteps, playing guitar in church since he was five. The elder Wilkins provided John with musical tutelage and advice on finding his own voice.

“I really don’t know how I got started, but I know after I got started, that he would show me stuff, and I’d watch him,” Wilkins told Mississippi Folklife. “He always told me to play my own music, play my own style.”

Performing regularly around Memphis since 1952, Wilkins would eventually launch his first solo album You Can’t Hurry God in 2010. For the album, he performed his father’s Prodigal Son, a song also covered by the Rolling Stones on their 1968 album Beggars Banquet.

Wilkins’ final solo album Trouble was released just last month, comprised of 11 tunes recorded at Royal Studios in Memphis. It featured contributions from the likes of guitarist Kevin Cubbins, keyboardist Reverend Charles Hodges, drummer Steve Potts and Wilkins’ three daughters, who sang backup on the record.

At press time, no cause of death has been announced. It was revealed in a press release for Trouble that Wilkins had caught and beaten COVID-19, and was “resting at home surrounded by loved ones”.

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