Claud Johnson, a 69-year-old resident of Crystal Springs, Miss., is the
biological son and sole heir of legendary bluesman
color="#003163">Robert Johnsonand is entitled to receive his late father's royalties, the Mississippi Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
In the decision, available on the court's official Web site
(www.mssc.state.ms.us), Justice Mike Mills wrote that "clear and convincing evidence" supported Claud Johnson's claims that Robert Johnson was his father."
Robert Johnson died in 1938 at the age of 27, leaving a legacy of seminal blues songs such as "Crossroads Blues" (RealAudio excerpt) "Stop Breakin' Down Blues" and "Hellhound on My Trail" (RealAudio excerpt), many of which were later covered by such rock artists as the Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and Led Zeppelin.
Claud Johnson's late mother, Virgie Mae Cain, testified that she had been intimate with the blues singer in the spring of 1931. Claud Johnson was born Dec. 16 of that year, according to court documents.
Also, Eula Mae Williams, a childhood friend of Cain, testified that she had watched Robert Johnson and Cain have sex and that she later talked with Johnson about his son.
"We talked about the baby," Williams said, according to court documents. "I was just asking when was he coming back down here. He said, 'Well, I'm not coming back. ... I'm going pretty good right now.' "
Claud Johnson was declared the bluesman's son in a 1998 court ruling, but other relatives had appealed the decision.
Reached Saturday at his home, Johnson declined to comment on the ruling.
Robert Johnson's estate, which includes royalties from the popular box set The Complete Recordings, is valued at about $1 million, according to the Associated Press.
Court documents include this passage in reference to the unavailability of DNA evidence to more conclusively determine paternity: "The appellants also complain that no DNA evidence was presented at trial to support the chancery court's ruling. Such evidence would be nigh impossible to obtain since Johnson's gravesite is unknown. As far as we know, Johnson is buried 'down by the highway side, so [his] old evil spirit can get a Greyhound bus and ride.'"