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John Wilkinson, Rhythm Guitarist for Elvis, Dead at 67

Performed with Presley more than a thousand times

Elvis Presley during a performance at Honolulu International Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Gary Null/NBCU Photo Bank
January 12, 2013 5:27 PM ET

John Wilkinson, a guitar player who accompanied Elvis Presley for more than a thousand shows as a member of the TCB Band, died on Friday at the age of 67 after a long battle with cancer, the Associated Press reports.

Wilkinson grew up in Springfield, Missouri, watching Presley perform on television. In 1955, when he was ten years old, Wilkinson snuck into the star's dressing room before a concert at Springfield's Shrine Mosque and berated the King for his musicianship. "You can't play guitar worth a damn," the boy said.

The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time: Elvis Presley

Wilkinson went on to become an accomplished guitarist, playing in folk groups such as the Kingston Trio and the New Christy Minstrels. Some 13 years after that first meeting in the dressing room, Presley asked Wilkinson to join his backup group, the TCB Band, after seeing the 23-year-old play on television. Over the next nine years, Wilkinson played rhythm guitar for Presley in 1,200 shows, remaining in the TBC Band until the singer's death in 1977.

In a statement expressing their sympathy to Wilkinson's family, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley said that "John and the beautiful music he made with Elvis will live forever in our hearts."

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