Wilkinson first met Elvis at the tender age of ten when he snuck into Elvis’s dressing room before a show in Springfield, Missouri. The first words he ever said to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll were, “You can’t play guitar worth a damn.” After that chance meeting, Wilkinson made a name for himself as a musician-most notably with the New Christy Minstrels-before being asked by Elvis to play guitar for him in 1968. Reportedly, Elvis did not remember Wilkinson’s less-than-generous appraisal of his guitar skills.
From then on, Wilkinson was a mainstay in Elvis’s band from 1968 until the King’s death in 1977. In an interview with Spinner, Wilkinson’s friend Gary Ellison said that he regarded the rock legend “as more of a friend than a boss.” Even after Elvis’s death, Wilkinson and the other members of Elvis’s band continued playing, even after Wilkinson suffered a stroke in 1989. His tireless devotion to music is something that will be missed.