Known principally for his work with early jazz clarinetist George Lewis (a fellow New Orleansian), Watkins also played with Kid Howard, Isaiah Morgan, Herb Morand, and Punch Miller. Watkins played piano as a youngster, switching to drums in his late teens. He began playing with Lewis in 1946, and continued to play and record with him into the ‘60s. As a member of Lewis's band, Watkins also backed the blues and vaudeville singer Lizzie Miles on live recordings made in the mid ‘50s. Poor health curtailed Watkins's musical activities after 1966.