Tony Wilkinson Obituary
John Howard, UK ROCK Magazine

When it was announced that the last 150 surviving rock'n'roll acts from the fifties would be appearing on the same bill in the obscure Wisconsin town of Green Bay, most fans thought it was pie in the sky. Not Tony Wilkinson. Off he went, had the week of his life, and then had the good grace not to gloat too much to those who missed the opportunity. Obviously, when that same show was repeated twice more, I joined him, as I had at Hemsby, the Rhythm Riot, and many other concerts and festivals over the years.

He won't be going to any of them, ever again. Tony Wilkinson passed away on Thursday February 14, 2013 after an 18 month battle with cancer. His daughter Tracey Lee was with him. I had known Tony since I was six, and we used to swap comics. We went to the same junior and senior schools, and even the same cub scouts.

When rock'n'roll erupted, we used to meet every Sunday morning to play our new releases to one another. Later, when we were old enough, we did the same, and then went to the pub. The night after he met future wife Pam, he invited her to join us for a drink, to introduce me to her. I think he knew immediately she was the one for him.

He only had one job, and one employer. He was the longest serving employee they had ever had in their 100 year history, and they prized him for his loyalty. As did his friends. When it was announced in 1962 that his all-time favourite Jerry Lee Lewis was returning to the UK, he organised the trip to Norwich to see him. We actually met the man for the first time.

Travelling in his Dad's Ford Anglia, we also saw James Brown, Sam Cooke, Little Richard, Gene Vincent, Chuck Berry and almost every idol we could in the sixties.

Back home in Southend, it was Tony who supplied the records that made The Shades club jukebox a Mecca for rock'n'roll fans, and gave resident group The Paramounts with half their setlist.

This interest in fifties rock'n'roll never left him. The last book I read, Sheree Homer's biography of Rick Nelson, he is mentioned in the credits for supplying information. The last record I bought, Rockin' Rhythm'n'Blues from Memphis on the Stompertime label, had his well-researched and well-written sleeve notes.

He was an oracle so far as fifties music was concerned, and never let up on his record and CD buying. When he moved back to Southend after 18 years working in the north, he would not transfer his record collection until iron bars had been put on the windows of his music room.

He was always prepared to share his wealth of knowledge, and his informed reviews appeared in specialist magazines including Now Dig This and UK Rock. He was the UK representative of Sweden's American Music Magazine and a contributor to the Shakin' All Over internet newsgroup.



Many of the rock'n'roll pioneers became friends, particularly Hayden Thompson, the Mississippi native who recorded at Sun Studios, and Tony and Hayden chatted almost weekly. Tony was a regular visitor to the United States, and attended the annual doo-wop convention in Long Island for five straight years, and was at this year's Rockers' Reunion in Reading, and only weeks ago at the 2is Reunion at London's Borderline, organised by The Woodies, a loose-knit social group he had helped to found.

Colinda, his second daughter, was a Down's Syndrome baby, and she and Tony were particularly attached, and he encouraged her CD buying and knew her tastes precisely. He led her by the hand, literally and figuratively.

His other daughter Tracey made him a grandfather with her husband Tom, and they have two boys, Marcus and Rory.

I was with him on the afternoon he passed on, and I had planned to give him a new EP he wanted today by The Trashmen with Deke Dickerson. Sadly, he will now never hear it. Tony was 69 and the best friend I could ever hope to have.