TCB Band : John Wilkinson : (Rhythm Guitar)
John Wilkinson was born in Washington DC in 1945. He was raised in Springfield Missouri. John's father was a Professor of Psychology and his mother, a wonderful home maker. He had a good and happy childhood and wonderful parents. Music was the main focal point in the home and never a day would go by without it. When John first heard and watched Elvis as a young boy, it was at the time Elvis was in the Louisiana Hayride. He loved his music which was totally different to what they were used to in Springfield. Folk were used to country music. John's parents' reaction to hearing Elvis was one thing, but seeing him was another. They were conservative people and not excited with the image of their son's idol, however this did not deter him from buying Elvis' records and eventually his parents accepted John's new tastes.
When John first saw Elvis on TV, he did not like the way he played and treated his Martin D18 guitar and swore that one day he would tell him. John started playing the guitar himself at the age of five and by the age of six, he was also playing the banjo.
Elvis came to John's hometown and was second bill to Hank Snow. They were appearing at The Shrine Mosque, about the only place in Springfield to hold any shows. John found out when the sound checks were taking place and decided to make his way there to try and get to see and to speak to Elvis. He went in search of the dressing room and eventually found him. After knocking first before entering, he extended his hand to Elvis introducing himself. Elvis being the polite guy he was, invited him to sit down and asked him what he was doing there. John replied, 'Elvis, you can't play guitar worth a damn'. Elvis laughed and challenged John to play guitar for him. Against the wall was an old Gibson J45. He played and sang for Elvis and he was impressed with this kid. However, the conversation was soon interrupted when two burly guys entered the room and wanted to know what John was doing there. Elvis told them that John was his friend and he had just given him a guitar lesson. Before leaving Elvis told John that one day they would meet again.
John was always into folk music and listened to and copied the likes of The Kingston Trio (who John became a member of and left in 1975) The Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary and Gordon Lightfoot.
Forming his own band at school, 'The Coachmen' he started performing professionally at 13 years of age, earning himself $25. His influences in music as well as Elvis Presley, were Johnny Cash, Wilbur Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs (Scruggs inspiring him to play banjo). He enjoyed Gospel music too because of the harmonies, influences similar to Elvis'.
Around 1964 John moved to California and attended university. It was also to be his second meeting with Elvis. John was working successfully in the clubs and bars, building himself an excellent reputation in the recording studios. He and his band played at the famous 'Whiskey A Go Go Bar' in L.A. John received a phone call one weekend from the manager asking him if he and his band would stand in on the opening act for 'Jefferson Airplane'. Later that evening following the show, he was changing in his dressing room when he noticed a huge frame of a man in his door way through the mirror, a guy he found out later to be one of Elvis' body guards, a native American known as 'Chief'. He informed John that someone wanted to see him right away in the club. John wasn't going to argue and went with him. He was led over to a table roped off in the corner and Elvis was there. He remembered John from the meeting they had in Springfield when he was nine years old and his guitar lesson. John was invited back to the house to sing some country and gospel songs and to just hang out there. On leaving the house in the wee hours of the next morning, Elvis told John that one day he was going to quit movies and return to performing. 'I really hope that you do Elvis,' John replied.
In the middle of 1968, John received another phone call. This time it was not from the manager of a night club. It was Elvis himself. It was common knowledge to John's friends that he listened to Elvis, and he thought it was one of them playing a trick on him and hung up! The phone rang again and the voice on the other end told him not to hang up, that it really was Elvis. Elvis reminded him of the conversation he had with him about returning to live performances and that he had a bunch of the best musicians ready for his band. Red and Sonny West were sent to pick John up and take him to Elvis' home. At the house, the mics and sound systems where set up and they began to play. Elvis was delighted with the sound and sent everyone home, except John.
There was still a position for a rhythm guitarist and Elvis wanted John to fill it. He accepted the offer and the deal was sealed with a hand shake.
At this time, not only did he join The TCB Band but John also went into the recording studios at RCA and released his first single, Your A Woman followed by You Got Nothing To Be Ashamed Of and The Last Resort. After Elvis died, John returned to L.A. and formed a band called 'Justice'. After a time, John realised that he needed a change and joined a company called Radio Shack, later moving on to an aircraft company. Unfortunately John suffered a stroke in 1989 but it didn't stop him returning to music. After a period of rehabilitation, he appeared at an Elvis tribute show in Germany and was once again reunited with Kathy Westmoreland, J.D. Sumner and The Stamps, The Jordanaires and Sean Neilson.
John Wilkinson was Elvis Presley's rhythm guitarist from July 1969 until June 26th 1977.