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Claud L. Johnson (December 16, 1931 – June 30, 2015)

Claud L. Johnson of Crystal Springs, Mississippi, passed away on June 30, 2015, at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi. He was 83 years old and the only living child of blues legend Robert L. Johnson and Vergie Cain. Mr. Claud lived the majority of his youth with his grandparents, Alex and Elizabeth Smith.

His grandfather, a Baptist preacher, instilled in him the importance of faith, community, hard work and charity. This early influence from his grandfather played a major role in shaping the man he would become. Although he had very little formal education, Mr. Claud was extremely wise and he stayed sharp until his death.

As a young boy, he assisted his grandparents by working in the fields and did yard work for his neighbors. When he was fifteen, he moved with his grandparents to Gulfport, Mississippi, where he got a job unloading trucks. Throughout his career, he worked in a sawmill, a bottling plant, a service station, an electrical power plant and for a cabinet manufacturer. He also owned and operated a barbeque restaurant in Crystal Springs, Mississippi, and was an independent truck driver, hauling sand and gravel for Green Brothers Gravel Company in Crystal Springs.

Mr. Claud was not a man of means until later in life, but he still was able to appreciate how greatly he had been blessed. Each year for Christmas, he would buy a lot of fruits and nuts, which he would assemble into gift baskets. He would deliver the baskets throughout the community to the elderly, homebound and needy. A ten-year legal battle resulted in the adjudication of Mr. Claud as the only son of and the sole heir-at-law to the estate of Robert L. Johnson. His legal success did not alter the core values instilled in him by his grandfather. For six months following the first royalty check earned from his father’s estate, he continued to get up each morning to haul gravel. Today, almost two decades later, Mr. Claud’s old gravel truck still sits on his property and in view of his house. That truck was his constant reminder of his humble beginnings and how far he had come.

Even though Mr. Claud’s financial situation had changed, his sense of obligation and duty to those less fortunate did not – the gift baskets at Christmas got bigger and the number of people getting the baskets grew larger. Wanting to have an impact on his community, Mr. Claud established the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, which, in part, aids in continuing the legacy of his father. Through the Foundation, he provided college scholarships, guitars, gifts, advice and opportunities to aspiring young musicians.

As the only son of Robert L. Johnson, Mr. Claud’s story has been featured in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Denver Post and The Los Angeles Times, along with countless other newspapers and magazines, as well as by many television and radio stations.

Mr. Claud was preceded in death by his parents, nine half-siblings, his beloved wife of 59 years, Earnestine, a step-son, Lawrence Ephriam, a step-daughter, Johnnie Mae Beckley and a daughter, Diane Sanders. He leaves to carry on his legacy three half-siblings: Ruby Lynn Moody and Eugene Cain, both of Houston, Texas, and Alfred Cain of New Orleans, Louisiana, a step-son Johnny (Gloria) Ephriam of Detroit, Michigan, one daughter, Teresa (Odell) Guynes, of Crystal Springs, and four sons: Greg (Helen) Johnson of Canton, Mississippi, Elder Steven (Mishelia) Johnson and Michael (Patricia) Johnson, both of Crystal Springs, and Billy (Benita) Bailey of Valdosta, Georgia. Mr. Claud was blessed to have thirteen grandchildren: Lisa, Shell, Nikkitta, Sylvester, Kevin, Janice, Michael, Richard, Bethany, Stephen, Malecia, Adrienne and Shawn, as well as ten great-grandchildren and a host of nieces, nephew, cousins and friends. The family extends special gratitude to a faithful caregiver, Nora Skipper of Crystal Springs and his church family at New Covenant.

Mr. Claud will be greatly missed by all who knew him. He loved the Lord, his family, his church and his friends. He will be remembered as a straight talker who did not compromise his beliefs and who stood strongly by his convictions – if something was on his mind, you would know it; if you got out of line, he didn’t mind telling you.

Pictured: Claud L. Johnson at home in his Robert Johnson room.

Claud Johnson, Son Of Robert Johnson, Passes At 83

We are saddened to report that Mr. Claud Johnson, son of Robert Johnson, passed away this morning at the age of 83. He lived a long, full life and is now reunited with his beloved Earnestine. We will miss him dearly and ask that you keep the Johnson family in your prayers. A full obituary will be posted at a later time.

Robert Johnson: A Legacy Under Duress – American Songwriter

There are myriad ways to remember Robert Johnson. You can identify him as the King of the Blues, the quintessence of the notion that the purest way to cathartically address the demons inside us and the pain accrued during our lives is to grab a guitar and sing about them in the most fearlessly expressive terms available. You can say he’s in many ways the first singer-songwriter, someone who wrote with searing confessional honesty about his life, taking words and phrases both familiar and unique and assembling them in such a fashion that it was like he had taken a picture of his soul and exposed it for the world to see.

Maybe you prefer to think of the influence he’s had on modern music, not just in terms of the hundreds of cover versions of his songs that have dotted the landscape for the past half-century or so, but also in the work of musicians like Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, Eric Clapton, and dozens of other rock luminaries who owe a great debt to the example that Johnson set in a mere 29 songs, the sum total of his recorded legacy.

… The music is what the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation has always attempted to bring into focus. Like any organization that depends on donations from others for its ability to achieve its goals, which not only include the preservation of the Johnson legacy but also the betterment of the Copiah County, Mississippi, area from which the blues legend hailed, the Foundation has struggled in recent years along with the economy. The good news is that, according to Steven Johnson, Robert’s grandson and the vice president of the Foundation, better economic news means that this year should see the return of initiatives like the New Generation Award for aspiring young musicians and a music festival in honor of Johnson.

Read more at American Songwriter. The May/June 2015 “Blues Issue” of American Songwriter magazine is on newsstands now. The iPad version is available at iTunes, and the Android-compatible version is available through Google Play.

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Download Robert Johnson Cover Issue Of American Songwriter Magazine

The May/June 2015 “Blues Issue” of American Songwriter magazine, featuring this photograph of Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines on the cover, is now available for download to subscribers with iPad and Android devices. The print edition of the magazine hits newsstands May 5. The Foundation has long supported the authenticity of this photograph. The magazine’s description:

In this special issue, we take an in-depth look at the legendary figures who made blues music history. We catch up with Steven Johnson of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation as he seeks to maintain his grandfather’s legacy. We travel the country, from Piedmont to Chicago, pinpointing the blues men and women who paved the way for future generations of musicians. Elsewhere, we catch up with some of today’s best and brightest blues musicians, like Tedeschi Trucks Band and Adia Victoria. Plus, we give you a behind-the-scenes look at our first Live and In Person Event in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The iPad version is available at iTunes, and the Android-compatible version is available through Google Play.

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Robert Johnson Cover Story In American Songwriter Magazine

The legacy of Robert Johnson is covered in American Songwriter‘s Blues Issue in May, featuring this photo of Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines on the cover. The Robert Johnson Blues Foundation, which is managed by his family to preserve the music and memory of Robert Johnson through the provision of art education, competitions and scholarships, has long supported the authenticity of this photograph. Here is an excerpt from the magazine, which interviewed Zeke Schein, a Robert Johnson enthusiast and guitar merchant who stumbled upon the photo back in 2005 while looking at vintage guitars on eBay.

What’s your general take on Robert Johnson in terms of his influence?

In my opinion, he was the Jimi Hendrix of his time period. That’s important because what he did was take styles that already existed and sort of combined them in ways that people had not done. I think just like Hendrix coming out of the Chitlin’ Circuit and coming out of the Ike Turner school of guitar playing, Robert Johnson definitely borrowed heavily from people who came before him, but he put it out in a way that was his own and unique voice. I do think it sounds more like Chuck Berry and people who were recording at Chess Studios like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. I think it was the origins of what we came to accept as rock music. I think it was very important, and in that time period as important as Hendrix was in the ‘60s for guitar.

Read more at American Songwriter. The May/June 2015 issue hits newsstands May 5.

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