“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Parsons in Decatur County, Tennessee — The American South (East South Central)

Little David Wilkins

— Tennesse Music Pathways —

Little David Wilkins Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By David Austin
1. Little David Wilkins Marker
Inscription.  Country singer, songwriter and entertainer Little David Wilkins scored 17 country hits as a performer, mostly in the 1970s, his composition, "Coming on Strong" was a No. 11 pop hit for Brenda Lee in 1966, and he wrote songs for artists as diverse as soul singer Percy Sledge, country star Conway Twitty and folk pop group, the Serendipity singers. Wilkins was also a night club performer and worked as a supporting artist to several major country stars.

David Ray Wilkins was born on Wilkinstown Rd near Parsons on May 18, 1940. His family moved to Memphis soon afterward but returned to Parsons when Wilkins started school in 1946. In 1954, he performed in high school assembly programs as one of four guitar players.

After graduation from Parsons High School in 1958 (before consolidation into Riverside High), he began playing three nights a week at the Cottage Cafe and the 120 Club. He worked another three nights in Jackson often at the upscale Delmar Club. After switching to piano in 1960, it became his primary instrument. In 1960, Johnny Cash's drummer, W.S. Holland, brought Wilkins to Sun Records Memphis. In 1962, Wilkins
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first record was released on Sun's Phillips International subsidiary. Label president Sam Phillips produced the single. Nashville based artists manager and music publisher Hubert Long saw Wilkins perform in Parsons, and Wilkins demo'd some songs for him. His first hit came when country star Stonewall Jackson recorded "Give it back to the Indians" in November 1963.

Wilkins moved to Nashville on July 4, 1964. Country star Sonny James recorded another of his songs, I'm getting Gray from being blue", but his biggest hit as a songwriter came when Brenda Lee recorded "Coming on Strong", the song won a BMI Citation of Achievement as one of the most played songs of 1967. Lee recorded another four of Wilkins songs. Almost one hundred other artists, including Barbara Mandrell, Jerry Lee Lewis, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and Mickey Gilley have recorded his songs.

In Nashville, Wilkins performed six nights a week at Ireland's Restaurant on 21st Avenue South, transforming the venue into a music industry hangout. Jerry Chestnut's song "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" was written about Wilkins' four years there. (Although Wilkins didn't record it, the song became a hit for Elvis Presley in 1975 and country star Travis Tritt in 1993).

Wilkins resumed his recording career on Plantation Records, scoring one hit before signing with Owen Bradley at MCA Records. Bradley was producing
Little David Wilkins Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By David Austin
2. Little David Wilkins Marker
Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, and Conway Twitty at the time. Wilkins recorded for MCA between 1972 and Bradley's retirement in 1977, scoring two Top 20 country hits, "Whoever turned you on forgot to turn you off" and "One Monkey Don't stop no Show". Another of his MCA singles, "George keeps pulling on my Ring" was later recorded by Twitty, becoming a No. 3 country hit in 1977 and a BMI Award Song. For seventeen years, Wilkins toured the United States, Canada and Germany, performing at night clubs and casinos, as well as stage shows. He was also an opening act for Twitty, Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Marty Robbins, and many others. He appeared on television shows, including Hee-Haw, Pop goes the Country and Nashville Now.

Wilkins retired from the road in 1990 to take care of his parents in Parsons. On August 24, 2017, a section of Highway 641 in Parsons, was dedicated as Little David Wilkins Highway and Wilkins wrote a song for the occasion "Highway 641, I'm gonna call you mine".
Erected 2022 by Tennessee Music Pathways.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Arts, Letters, MusicEntertainment. A significant historical date for this entry is May 18, 1940.
Location. 35° 38.548′ N, 88° 7.388′ W. Marker is in Parsons, Tennessee, in Decatur County. Marker is on Tennessee Avenue
Little David Wilkins Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By David Austin
3. Little David Wilkins Marker
South (U.S. 641), on the left when traveling south. Next to Parsons Library on Southside of Parsons Municipal Building. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Parsons TN 38363, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 5 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Divided Loyalties (within shouting distance of this marker); Revolutionary War Veterans Monument (approx. 4 miles away); Confederate Veterans Memorial (approx. 4 miles away); Decatur County Veterans Monument (approx. 4 miles away); Brownsport Furnace (approx. 4.1 miles away); Site of Decatur County School Gymnasium (approx. 4.1 miles away); Decatur County Training School Crowder High School 1925-1965 (approx. 4.4 miles away); Perryville First County Seat of Perry County (approx. 4.8 miles away).
Regarding Little David Wilkins. The section of US-641 mentioned on the marker, that is named after Little David Wilkins, is located starting at US-412 and goes north from there.
Credits. This page was last revised on September 12, 2022. It was originally submitted on September 3, 2022, by David Austin of Scotts Hill, Tennessee. This page has been viewed 402 times since then and 102 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on September 3, 2022, by David Austin of Scotts Hill, Tennessee. • Mark Hilton was the editor who published this page.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Clear, in focus photo of marker. • Can you help?

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Apr. 19, 2024