“The Reverend John Wilkins is the latest star in a long line of gospel bluesmen, and You Can’t Hurry God puts him right up there with the greats. The son of singer Robert Wilkins (who contributed ‘Prodigal Son’ to the Rolling Stones’ Beggars Banquet), the Memphis-born, North Mississippi-bred Wilkins has a career stretching back to the 60s playing guitar for O.V. Wright, before following in his father’s footsteps into the ministry in the 1980s. Wilkins draws on a variety of blues styles for his debut album, from acoustic country blues (Robert’s ‘Prodigal Son’) and the electrified version of same, to boogie, straight gospel and soul balladry, displaying an easy mastery of all of them.”
Though born in Memphis, Tennessee, Reverend John Wilkins is a child of the North Mississippi Hill Country. His mother was born in Holly Springs and his father was from Hernando. While Wilkins grew up in the city, family parties and neighborhood picnics featuring country blues and fife and drum bands were never farther than a short drive over the Mississippi state line.
John Wilkins’ father, the venerated blues and gospel singer Robert Wilkins, was the principal influence on his young son’s development as a musician. Wilkins’ father had made a series of recordings in the 1930s that included the original “Prodigal Son” (initially recorded as a secular song called “That’s No Way To Get Along”), which was later recorded by the Rolling Stones. The elder Wilkins developed a gospel style that was based on his earlier country blues style – a style that developed into the rock ‘n’ roll sound that Memphis, and then the world, would later claim as it’s own.
When the young John Wilkins was learning to play guitar, he picked up his father’s gospel and country blues styles. He also absorbed the citified soulful sounds that were being pioneered by local musicians and recorded by legendary Memphis labels like Sun, Stax and Hi.
As he approached adulthood in the 1960s, John Wilkins could be found playing in church, at parties, and at clubs. Like his father before him, Wilkins walked a similar musical line between the sacred and secular. He played guitar on O.V. Wright’s famous 1965 single “You’re Gonna Make Me Cry” and later in the early 1970s recorded as a member of the M & N Gospel Singers for Style Wooten’s Designer Records.
In the early 1980’s, Wilkins life came full circle when he followed his father’s call to ministry. He became pastor of Hunter’s Chapel Church and ever since, Wilkins has led a congregation that includes generations of Tate county locals, as well as the late fife players Othar Turner and Napolian Strickland and their families, and numerous other regional parishioners and North Mississippi musicians.
In earlier times, legendary Hill Country bluesman Fred McDowell and his wife Annie Mae were members of Hunter’s Chapel congregation. It was they who, in the mid 1960s first introduced the Hunter’s Chapel Singers to the world on the outstanding album called Amazing Grace for Testament Records.
“You Can’t Hurry God” is Reverend John Wilkins’ debut full-length album. In it he showcases an individual sound that is regional and universal. This recording is a culmination of a lifetime spent learning from, and ministering to some of the luminaries of North Mississippi and Memphis. And, this sound can have only been made by a child of the North Mississippi Hill Country.