Pilkington was the son of Lloyd Vernon and Ora Belle Pilkington and was raised in Bessemer. He worked at Puro's ice cream while a student at Bessemer High School. In 1954 Pilkington joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in San Diego, California.
While in California, Pilkington married Donna Lee Petsch. They raised two children together and opened a restaurant. They divorced in the early 1960s and he relocated back to Birmingham where he opened a number of nightclubs, including The Fire Pit, After Dark in the Florentine Building, The Gold Torch, Al's Crossroads West on 3rd Avenue North, Al's Crossroads East on Parkway East, the Gizmo Lounge on Magnolia Avenue, King's Knight, Lakeview Yacht Club, and Al's on Seventh.
Pilkington was a major supporter of entertainer Freada Wallace, and booked Nell Carter's singing group, the Renaissance Ensemble, while she was still at Parker High School. He also employed Fannie Flagg as a regular dancer.
Pilkington owned the building at 342 Valley Avenue that he leased to Herbert Hsu for the Pacific Islander restaurant before negotiating with Sammy's Go-Go owner Sammy Russo to take over the lease in 1989.
- "Al Pilkington, Birmingham nightclub titan, dies at 80." (January 3, 2016) Birmingham Equinox