Former TCB Band member John Wilkinson passed away last Friday, January 12. Over the following weekend, many Elvis websites noted his passing with biographical information and photos of him performing with Elvis in the 70s – like this one.
ElvisBlog’s tribute to John Wilkinson is a little late because I had to make arrangements to secure the following photo from the graphic designer for Elvis International magazine.
The shot was taken during the one of three concerts presented by Darwin Lamm for the 25th Anniversary celebration at Elvis Week 2002. This concert featured the TCB Band with Terry Mike Jeffrey (left) handling the vocals. Continuing to the right, there is Jerry Scheff, James Burton, John Wilkinson, Marion Cocke, and Larry Geller. A little bit of Charlie Hodge’s plaid shirt is visible behind Terry Mike Jeffrey.
The reason I wanted to feature this photo is because this is the only time I ever saw John Wilkinson. The four re-united TCB boys, Scheff, Burton, Ronnie Lott, and Glen D. Hardin were the main draw, but there were lots of old Elvis friends who had time on the stage. Most said a few words, but with John Wilkinson, it was different.
I was sitting in a front row seat, a nice comp from Darwin Lamm for all those Elvis International magazine article articles I wrote for him. So, I could practically reach out and touch the performers. At such close range, I could really see the interaction between the folks on stage. It was like a reunion — one big happy family.
When John Wilkinson was announced, he walked out slowly using a cane. He held his left arm stiffly at his side. I didn’t know it at the time, but John’s condition was the result of a stroke he suffered in 1989. You could tell it was a very emotional moment for the others on the stage, and soon it spread to the entire audience. There’s a lot of love in the world for members of the Elvis circle, and John Wilkinson certainly felt it that night.
Wilkinson spoke for a bit, but his big moment was when he sang “Early Morning Rain.” The song had been associated with him since the Elvis concerts of the mid-seventies. When Elvis introduced the band members, he would say, “From Springfield, Missouri, my rhythm guitar player, John Wilkinson. Play it, John,” and Wilkinson would launch into “Early Morning Rain.” I don’t know if John got standing ovations for it in the seventies, but he sure did in 2002 at that Elvis Week concert. Very moving.
Here are some more photos of John Wilkinson at work with Elvis.
John Wilkinson’s passing reminded me of an injustice that has lingered on for more than a decade. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored James Burton by inducting him into the Sideman category in 2001. Every year since, I have hoped the other four members of the TCB Band will be inducted as well, but it never happens. And, if it does finally happen, John Wilkinson will not be around to enjoy it. Jerry Scheff, Ronnie Tutt, and Glen D. Hardin are not getting any younger. It is time for the Roll Hall to honor the entire TCB Band. To read more on the Hall of Fame’s snub of these bandmates, click here, here, and here.
Good bye, John Wilkinson. Say hi to Elvis for us.
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