Member of the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame, performing member of Jamboree USA, and performer at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry
Craig has recorded professionally on the Octagon Recording's label with a national release of his song "God Made Me That Way" reaching into the top 40 in 1990. To date Craig has released four albums "Craig Wilkins at the Appalachian Jubilee", "Craig Wilkins - Favorites", "Craig Wilkins and Family", and "Craig Wilkins & The Western New Yorker's - Just Country".
Additionally, Craig has been heard on legendary radio stations WSM, Nashville, WWVA, Wheeling, and numerous others throughout the states, and Europe. He has also been featured on television programs broadcast nationally.
The list of internationally known artists Craig has opened for is extensive. Simply put, he has opened for everyone from Kitty Wells to Brad Paisley and dozens of others. In his still growing career, Craig, has performed on the stages of the Grand Ole Opry, Appalachian Jubilee, Jamboree USA, Tennessee Barn Dance, and many other venues.
An ambassador for country music, Craig has promoted the cause since grade school, back when "country wasn't cool." He has been an active member of the Country Music Association for over 20 years. He regularly attends Fan Fair (now Music Fest) in Nashville, has worked with more than 100 top artists at Jamboree In The Hills, the Superbowl of Country Music, since 1979. His stories and interviews have appeared in print and on radio.
February 1, 1956 Walter "Craig" Wilkins was born in Batavia, New York. A life long resident of the great state of New York, Craig has resided in the village of Akron for 44 years. He and his wife Sandra have a home at 35 Eckerson, Avenue in Akron with their four children. He has always used his middle name, Craig.
Craig remembers listening to country radio from the time he was five, and watching Johnny Cash sing "Ring of Fire" on TV around that same time. Mr. Cash has always been a positive influence on Craig's life.
Craig's father Walt grew up in the central coal mining section of Pennsylvania and moved to Western New York in the fifty's where he met Craig's mother Doreen. During the late 60's Craig and his younger brothers Chris and Terry would travel with their parents and visit family in Pennsylvania. It was on one of these trips when his Uncle Fred introduced Craig to the guitar, and basic chords.
For his 13th birthday Craig's mother paid for basic guitar lessons. But it wasn't Craig's guitar playing that caught everyone's ear. It was his voice. Singing with his Dad and uncles at family functions, everyone who heard Craig knew he would be a singer. In 1974 local musician "accordion Zeke" Cory encouraged Craig to compete in the March of Dimes talent contest. Craig came in second place. The next year he won first place.
Craig first won awards for his vocal abilities when he was 17; a few of those he has been honored by include: March of Dimes, Star Quest, Wrangler Jeans and The Appalachian Jubilee, where he was given the title "The Golden Voice."
His highest honor to date came in 2005, when Craig was inducted into the New York State Country Music Hall of Fame, an honor which puts him among the legends of country music.
Career and Ambitiions
Although Craig has concentrated first and foremost on his abilities as a lead singer, he also often wears the hat of host, stage manager, band manager, promoter, and talent agent. From performing with his band The Western New Yorkers at a major venue, his monthly ShinDig program or playing his acoustic guitar and singing for the local kindergarteners and senior citizens, Craig Wilkins is proud to be a true country music enthusiast from New York State.
Craig Wilkins has established himself as one of the most enduring entertainers in the Northeastern United States. Craig has won fans with his traditional country and gospel music from New York to Nashville.
The question Craig is most frequently asked is. When are you going to move to Nashville and make it "big"? Since 1980 his answer has been the same. "I have never had stars in my eyes. I put my Christian faith and my family first. I just want to make a living doing what I love the most -- and that is the music business."
Now that's not to say that Craig is not talented enough to make it big in Nashville, he has had many offers through the years. In fact his first trip to the Music City was in 1980. He saw instantly what a sacrifice it would take to leave the security of his small hometown and severe ties with family and friends.
In 1981 Craig started his first band "Country Turnaround" In 1982 he would join the band "Country Gold." During this period he worked a full time job in a factory in Buffalo, played on Friday and Saturday nights, worked on cars and raised two children. In the early 80's, Craig also competed on a national level at Starquest USA; he was a finalist several times.
1984 was the year Craig was invited to join the Appalachian Jubilee. President of the Jubilee, Dr. Max Cooley, gave Craig the title of "The Golden Voice". That same year he joined the Country Music Association and created his own radio show on WXRL in the Buffalo, New York market.
Entertainer and promoter Jim Bailey was influential in helping Craig make the right contacts to appear on the Tennessee Barn Dance, Ponderosa Park, Silver Dollar City and numerous television shows in the south and northeast.
In 1985 Craig made his first demo recording and met with BMI executive Thomas Cain, who suggested he work with a co - writer. By the fall of 1986, his popularity had resulted in a new fan club and the newsletter, "Family, Friends, and Fans." He also formed his present band The Western New Yorkers.
Craig began hosting a weekend radio show on WBTA in Batavia, New York in 1988. As a stage performer and radio personality, Craig has worked with more than 100 top performers, from Willie Nelson, Garth Brooks and George Jones to the hot young acts of today, including Montgomery-Gentry, Leann Rimes, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley.
It was in 1989 that Craig first appeared on the Midnight Jamboree at the Earnest Tubb Theatre in Nashville.
1990 was a great year for Craig Wilkins. In April he recorded in Nashville for the first time. He sang at the wedding of long time friend Denise Allis in Nashville and met Pastor Gene Crane. On September 15th Craig appeared for the first time on Wheeling's Jamboree USA as a paid performer. In the fall he released his first national recording of his song "God Made me That Way". On December first it was number 26 on a national chart. Just before the year ended Craig made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry as guest to Reverend Jimmy and Dottie Snow and their Friday night show, "Grand Ole Gospel Hour". He was invited to appear several times.
In 1995 the Grand Ole Gospel hour ended its twenty-year run and the Appalachian Jubilee closed its doors. In March of 1996 Craig started the Western New York Shin-Dig. The Shin-Dig is a monthly show and dance that serves as a home base for Craig. He also started his own business, C.W. Singer Enterprises.
From the late 90's through the present Craig has kept busy performing at fairs, festivals, churches, schools, and everyplace between and beyond. In all the years he has performed Craig has never missed a performance date. He has never turned away any request to perform wherever he is called. He is at home on a main stage opening for a Nashville Super star or just as at ease singing for a group of seniors confined to a health care facility.
In the three decades he has been in the business, he has been a supporting act, opened for, interviewed or promoted over a hundred Nashville Stars.
Not bad for a guy that never left the security of his small hometown of Akron, New York.