b. Iola, Kansas, USA. Wilkerson was raised in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where he started out in music, playing trumpet and then alto saxophone in a dance band led by his trumpet-playing father, Whitey Wilkerson. He was then aged 11 and some years later, after military service, he studied at the University of Tulsa, gaining a degree in clarinet performance. He also played lead alto with the university’s jazz band. This led to recognition from DownBeat, the College Combo Award, and Wilkerson subsequently appeared at the Wichita Jazz Festival. Following a performance at a Stan Kenton clinic, he joined Kenton’s band as lead alto. This was in 1975 and Wilkerson then moved to Los Angeles where he played tenor saxophone on Shelly Manne’s Jazz Crystallizations. He played in studio bands and also worked as an actor before returning to the Midwest and a contract with Skyline Records. During this period, he met and then married another Skyline artist, singer Andrea Baker.
He continued with his studies, working privately with Cannonball Adderley, Donald Sinta and Phil Woods and also at Pittsburgh State University in Kansas where he studied classical saxophone and clarinet. Thereafter, he became involved in teaching being appointed to the jazz faculty of Interlochen School for the Arts in Michigan and becoming Director of Jazz Studies at Mt. San Antonio College in Walnut, California. He continued to work on both alto and tenor saxophones, also gaining recognition as a clarinettist, soprano saxophonist and flautist. By the late 90s, however, Wilkerson was mostly heard on baritone saxophone and had formed the west coast-based band, Shaw ’Nuff. He played and recorded with Frank Capp’s Juggernaut and with several other leaders, including a set released under his wife’s name. Although Wilkerson’s baritone playing was highly distinctive and attracted a great deal of attention, as the new century began he was turning more and more to the alto saxophone. Intriguingly, he brings to each instrument some of the qualities of the other. Thus, he is able to play alto with some of the richness of sound the bigger instrument offers; while on baritone, he performs with an airy grace befitting a man who thinks of himself as an altoist at heart. In addition to performing nationwide, Wilkerson is in constant demand as a Selmer clinician.