Don Wilkerson

The archetypal big-toned Texas tenor of Don Wilkerson was unfortunately not documented on record as much as the quality of his music deserved; he was an excellent, earthy soul-jazz saxophonist capable of playing blues, ballads, bop, swing, and gospel-tinged R&B. Wilkerson was born in Moreauville, LA, in 1932, and first learned the alto sax; by his teens, he had moved to Houston and was accomplished enough on tenor to play with R&B outfits headed by Amos Milburn and Charles Brown. Wilkerson played on some of Ray Charles’ earliest recording sessions in the mid-’50s, taking memorable solos on classics like “I Got a Woman,” “This Little Girl of Mine,” and “Hallelujah I Love Her So.” He also led a band in Miami for a short time, and participated in numerous jam sessions with Cannonball Adderley. Adderley produced Wilkerson’s first recording session, a 1960 date for Riverside titled The Texas Twister. After another short stint with Charles, he signed with Blue Note and recorded three stellar, soulful albums over 1962-1963: Elder Don, Preach, Brother!, and Shoutin’, all of which featured Grant Green on guitar. Unfortunately, none was very successful, and Wilkerson didn’t record any further as a leader. He remained in Houston for most of his life and passed away on July 18, 1986.



  1. Don WilkersonHappy Johnny, Blue Note
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