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I wouldn't play in Bentonia for a hundred dollars a minute - Skip James, from Steven Calt's bio

Author Topic: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer  (Read 14775 times)

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Offline Stuart

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #75 on: February 13, 2014, 11:53:06 AM »
The cover is undignified, to say the least.

I hope Andy releases his project in spite of the Bear Family CD. Obviously, there are considerations when it's his money backing the CD run--and it's hardly a world of perfect choices, but Rev. Robert Wilkins' music deserves to be made available.
« Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 01:32:49 PM by Stuart »

Offline uncle bud

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #76 on: February 13, 2014, 09:13:46 PM »
Wow, that cover really is idiotic, given the music. I would have expected more from Bear Family. I don't even understand the reasoning. So a bunch of aged Stones fans are going to buy a gospel record because they did a three-minute Wilkins cover in 1968, that no one but blues nerds will associate with Wilkins? How many are going to buy this record based on this fact, which is blown way out of proportion in the blues world. 10? 20?

I agree with Stuart, I hope Andy releases his project and damn the Bear Family disc. I'll buy his.

If not, then I guess we won't have to feel guilty buying the Bear Family version on JSP soon enough with different artwork.  >:D

Offline harriet

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #77 on: February 14, 2014, 05:51:23 AM »
I read that originally Wilkins was not credited on the Stones album for the song and that was corrected legally. I hope he got royalties for it, like McDowell did for You Got to Move.

Their version makes more sense now that I have heard the original, but For myself, it wasn't until I listened to the Wilkins tracks recently on John Miller's lesson, that I developed interest in Wilkins at all - the Stones version IMHO is hacked and a turn off - I heard it before I heard of Wilkins. I also read that Wilkins remarked about one of his songs that was recorded, maybe Prodigal Son, that he was glad that someone liked his song enough to record it. The important thing to me in the Stones is did they credit and pay him for the use. If the material was new on Wilkins, I'd pick it up regardless of the cover.

I sure wish there was like even 30 seconds of footage of Wilkins available!
« Last Edit: February 14, 2014, 05:52:27 AM by harriet »

Offline jpeters609

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #78 on: February 14, 2014, 07:39:11 AM »

I sure wish there was like even 30 seconds of footage of Wilkins available!

I seem to remember that Gene Rosenthal supposedly had live footage of Robert Wilkins, taken from the same performances that make up part of the "Remember Me" CD on Gene's label. Maybe. I think this had been mentioned on Gene's website back when the label was still viable (I believe he had footage of many of the performers he recorded). But, if it exists, I don't know its status.
Jeff

Offline banjochris

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #79 on: February 14, 2014, 11:12:39 AM »
There definitely is some footage; there was a little bit on the website of Wilkins playing "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord," if memory serves, but it was in a little window about the size of a postage stamp. I think the video was from one of the Memphis Country Blues Festivals. I sure wish there was some footage out there.

Offline frankie

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #80 on: February 14, 2014, 01:23:46 PM »
the footage is still on the adelphi site, and still bad quality:

 http://www.adelphirecords.com/video/Wilkins.asf

if only there were more.... and easier on the eyes.

Offline Mr.OMuck

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #81 on: February 14, 2014, 04:50:23 PM »
Forgive me if its already been mentioned but Wilkins' performance of Prodigal Son on the Blues at Newport 1964 Volume 2 is superb and has that beautiful Vanguard sound.
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Offline uncle bud

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #82 on: February 14, 2014, 05:46:08 PM »
Agreed, a truly splendid performance, one of his best and that's sayin' something. Imagine footage of that!

Offline banjochris

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #83 on: February 14, 2014, 06:27:33 PM »
I suspect there's a lot of Newport footage we haven't seen. Some tantalizing bits popped up in that Martin Scorsese "The Blues" series a few years back (which I was not a fan of), but only bits.

Offline harriet

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #84 on: February 14, 2014, 08:02:47 PM »
if you have quicktime you can right click the "I'm a Soldier" clip, download it and enlarge it, take a peek, see a little of his smile, demeanor. It's something anyway.

Offline blueshome

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #85 on: February 15, 2014, 02:05:17 AM »
This from Andy Cohen on RBF:
"To the lot of yez: We don't yet know what's going on here. I don't want to say anything just yet. For the record, though, our reissue will be tasteful, more complete, more notes and pictures on a second CD that is just PDF's, and it WILL come out, once Rev. Wilkins stops rolling over in his grave over a cover featuring a toilet instead of his calm and sage visage. Our intent is both folkloric and religious, and we intend to market the issue to and through the COGIC church, among other places. To David Costa: Gene Rosenthal issued a lot of the later stuff Wilkins did, on Gene's own label. This is a Piedmont imprint, as will ours be. But no toilets."

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #86 on: February 15, 2014, 05:48:55 AM »
I read that originally Wilkins was not credited on the Stones album for the song and that was corrected legally. I hope he got royalties for it
He did. It was released in December 1968 by Decca Records in the UK and London Records in the US. Here?s the tale as told by Tony Glover to Rolling Stone magazine. All "old hat" now but...

'Beggar's Banquet' LP fails to credit original songwriter Rev. Robert Wilkins
By Tony Glover Rolling Stone March 1, 1969


"Prodigal Son", one of the tracks on the Stones? 'Beggar's Banquet' LP, is not an original by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, although the album credits, as revised from the original banned LP cover to the one inspired by the record company, list it as such. It is a song written and recorded by Reverend Robert Wilkins, a 72-year-old former blues singer turned minister. He first recorded it in February of 1964 for Piedmont Records (Reverend Robert Wilkins?Memphis Gospel Singer Piedmont 13162), a now defunct specialist label that featured Mississippi John Hurt, as well as reissues of classic blues and ragtime numbers.

The original cover for Beggar's Banquet had clearly credited Wilkins with the tune, and since the confusion was pointed out to London Records and the Stones business office, publishing, royalties and other attendant financial details have been happily and properly straightened out.

It's more than just a matter of credit where credit is due; anyone who copyrights a song is paid composer royalties for any recordings of that song. The standard music publishing contract provides that the author gets 50 percent of the royalties, the publisher gets the other 50 percent. Now days, this generally means that for each song recorded on an LP, the composer gets 1? per copy sold.
The song rights are owned by Wynwood Music, Box 141, Burke Va. 22015, headed by Peter Kuykendall, a former bluegrass singer and arranger (he worked with the Country Gentlemen), and sound engineer; he mastered Wilkins' Piedmont LP. When contacted, Kuykendall hadn't heard of the Stones recording.

"We usually try to keep close tabs on this sort of thing, but it's not always possible," he explained. "But I'll certainly get my papers in order and put in a claim ? and hope for the best. The Stones may accept it and pay on it right off," he continued, "which was the case with Cream's version of Skip James's 'I'm So Glad' on their first LP. I don't know if it was Clapton or who, but when they found out about the claim they said, 'Let's not fight it, he needs the bread.'"

Dick Spottswood, who recorded the Reverend's first and only LP, is an old-time record collector, bluegrass enthusiast, and former head of several specialized blues and folk labels. He filled in Reverend Wilkins' background. "He was born Robert Timothy Wilkins, January 16, 1896, in Hernando, Mississippi, Negro on his father's side, white and Cherokee Indian on his mother's. When he was very young, Wilkins' father was forced to leave the state to avoid prosecution on bootlegging charges. Wilkins' mother remarried, to a very fine guitar player, who taught Robert. By age 15, Robert was playing for dances, parties, etc., and he became a very fine guitarist and singer. In 1915, he left for Memphis, Tennessee, and other than a short spell of military service in World War I, he's lived there ever since. He never did make his living completely by singing, but music has always been a part of his life."
In September of 1928 Wilkins made his first blues recordings, for Victor label. The song was "Rolling Stone Blues, Parts I & II" (another twist!) "Robert used a borrowed guitar with a broken neck ? he didn't want it released, but Victor went ahead. For later sessions he got a better guitar, the sound was much improved. A year later, 1929, Wilkins recorded "That's No Way To Get Along," a blues ancestor of "Prodigal Son," using the same melody and guitar lines, only with blues lyrics (available today on a reissue LP Mississippi Blues 1927-1940, Origin Jazz Library OJL-5). Wilkins worked as a pullman porter and stockyard clerk, singing and recording on the side.

"In 1936 he was 'converted' to Christian ideals, which meant that he stopped singing secular music. In 1950 he undertook his first ministry, and he is now an herb medicine specialist and minister of the Church of God In Christ, in Memphis."
Spottswood, a connoisseur of old blues, "rediscovered" Wilkins in a manner that seems absurdly simple when you hear of the decade-long hunts for other old blues men. He heard a rumor that Wilkins was alive in Memphis, went to a library, got a Memphis directory, and found two Robert Wilkinses listed. So he sat down, wrote identical letters to both addresses, and the right man answered. The recording sessions and Newport appearances followed.

"Wilkins' guitar style hadn't changed," Spottswood said. "But the old blues songs had become guitar instrumental pieces ? he would play anything ? it was only sinful to sing the words. Or he would rework the old songs, as the case with 'That's No Way To Get Along' becoming the biblical tale of 'Prodigal Son.'

"Today Wilkins is making a comfortable living as a minister, and he's the patriarch of a large family, including his wife, children, in-laws and grandchildren. He sings and plays gospel songs as a regular part of his weekly service ? but he's still proud of the old blues."

Later, Kuykendall phoned the Reverend and told him of the Stones recording, without mentioning the copyright difficulties. "He seemed quite happy that people will be hearing his song," Kuykendall said. "It couldn't bother him that a rock group has done it."
« Last Edit: February 15, 2014, 05:51:02 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline Paget18

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #87 on: September 26, 2014, 12:34:11 AM »
 Have you heard his performance of ?Prodigal Son?? It?s absolutely brilliant. These days his son Reverend John Wilkins, continues his father's gospel blues legacy. Not sure if he?s as good though.
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Offline banjochris

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #88 on: June 04, 2015, 10:08:46 AM »
Bump! Haven't heard anything about this and it's been been almost 9 months since the last post. Any news?
Chris

Offline jostber

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Re: Robert Wilkins - Memphis Gospel Singer
« Reply #89 on: September 20, 2015, 12:30:24 PM »
Still waiting.... :)

 


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