The “legend” of how guitarist Robert Johnson became the greatest bluesman in history by selling his soul to the devil is one of the of the most famous tales of music myth (and I offer a variation on it in the novel I have just finished writing).
On a more mundane level, the story of the legal battle for his estate is pretty interesting in its own right. It (the estate) was recently awarded to one Claud Johnson, found by a court to be the illegitimate son of Robert Johnson. As part of the proceedings associated with the case, Claud produced a number of witnesses to attest to the fact that this his mother had had a relationship with Robert Johnson.
One of those was Eula Mae Williams, a childhood friend of Claud’s mother, Virgie Mae Cain. Williams’ testimony is priceless, and I’ve reproduced it below the fold:
‘Contrary to Virgie Mae’s assertion that no one ever saw Johnson and her engage in sexual intercourse, Eula Mae testified that she did in fact see Virgie Mae and Johnson engage in sexual intercourse in the spring prior to Claud’s birth in December. The resulting courtship is best expressed by Eula Mae herself in response to pretrial questioning by attorney Victor McTeer, wherein Eula Mae described an incident where she, her boyfriend, Virgie Mae, and Johnson all went for a “walk” in the spring of 1931’:
Q: All right, so you walked off the road, correct?
Q: And you started to kiss and do whatever people do?
Q: All right. Now, when you started that, what was Virgie and –
A: Doing the same thing we were.
Q: How do you know? You were sitting there watching them while you were –
A: We was both standing up.
Q: Oh, so both of you were standing up in the woods?
A: Sure, we was standing up out there in the woods.
Q: Excuse me, I haven’t finished yet. Virgie and Robert, were they kissing and standing up?>
Q: Was there ever a time when you were not looking at them?
A: Well, yes.
Q: I see. Did you at any point in time remove your clothing?
A: Well, had to.
Q: Okay. Did you observe them remove their clothing?
Q: You were sitting there watching someone else do this?
A: I done told you.
Q: Well, let me, let me share something with you, because I’m really curious about this. Maybe I have a more limited experience. But you’re saying to me that you were watching them make love?
Q: While you were making love?
Q: You don’t think that’s at all odd?
A: Say what?
Q: Have you ever done that before or since?
Q: Watch other people make love?
A: Yes, I have done it before. Yes, I’ve done it after I married. Yes.
Q: You watched other people make love?
A: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.
Q: Other than…other than Mr. Johnson and Virgie Cain.
A: You haven’t?
Q: No. Really haven’t.
A: I’m sorry for you.
Q: Well, I appreciate that. And perhaps I need the wealth of experience that you have. But share with me this. Did you actually watch them engage in the act? You actually watched that?
Q: When they were engaging in the act, was your husband (her boyfriend at the time) watching, too?
Q: Okay. Did they watch you?
Q: And you watched them watch you?
Eula Mae also testified that Virgie Mae told her she was pregnant with Johnson’s baby in May of 1931, the year of Claud’s birth. Moreover, Eula Mae testified as follows about a chance meeting with Johnson several years after Claud’s birth:
Q: Now, ma’am, when you saw R.L. Johnson there at Shelby some years after Claud’s birth, did you talk to him at all?
A: Yes, we talked about the baby.
Q: Tell us about that conversation…
A: Well, I was just asking when was he coming back down here. He said, “Well, I’m not coming back.” He said, “I’m going pretty good right now.” He say, “I’ll be up here.” He said, “She done got married now, and she got a husband and children.”
Eula Mae was 83 when she gave this testimony. Claud Johnson’s claim to the estate was upheld.
(Head’s up to @TheAshGrove for the link)