During the 1920s and 1930s, Tim Wilkins was one of the most popular blues artists associated with Beale Street. In a personal crisis, he turned to the Lord, offering his life in exchange for that of his beloved wife, and never looked back. When the Rolling Stones recorded Wilkins' "Prodigal Son" in the early '60s, blues researchers found Wilkins at home in Memphis, ministering to the congregation at the Lane Avenue Church of God in Christ and performing gospel songs (which bore a striking melodic similarity to Tim Wilkins' blues) at street corner revivals. Rev. Wilkins would not play the blues, but in characteristically gracious manner, he always accepted opportunities to perform his country blues tinged gospel before new audiences. At the Fourth Annual Memphis Country Blues Festival, held in June 1969, Reverend Wilkins and his sons performed the hypnotizing "In the Army of the Lord" among other sacred songs.
The full version of this song can be found on the Adelphi Blues Vault Series CD by Reverend Wilkins entitled "...Remember Me.
In his "second" incarnation as a minister, Reverend Robert Timothy Wilkins was known for his dignified bearing and glowing demeanor, as evidenced by this photograph from a 1971 performance. Although in one song he admonished "Don't You Let Nobody Turn You 'Round," this smile surely put the spin on a few sinners.
(Photo Credit: Gene Rosenthal, made while he was taping the 1971 River City Music Festival at the old Ellis Auditorium in Memphis.)