Bluesman’s son wins custody of photos, profits

In this Feb. 1, 2006 photo, Claud Johnson, seated, poses with his son Michael Johnson, next to a poster of one of the rare photographs of his father, Robert Johnson, a blues pioneer. (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Greg Jenson)

In this Feb. 1, 2006 photo, Claud Johnson, seated, poses with his son Michael Johnson, next to a poster of one of the rare photographs of his father, Robert Johnson, a blues pioneer. (AP Photo/The Clarion-Ledger, Greg Jenson)

By Jack Elliott Jr.

Associated Press

JACKSON – The Mississippi Supreme Court says Claud Johnson can keep profits from the only two known photographs of his father, Delta bluesman Robert Johnson.

The case turned on a technicality. The court ruled Thursday that other family members knew as early as 1990 about the photos and royalty payments. A court declared Claud Johnson the musician’s sole heir in 1998.

Under Mississippi’s statute of limitation, the state Supreme Court ruled a legal challenge should have been filed no later than 1994. A lawsuit by other family members over the photos was filed in 2000.

The court rejected arguments that the clock started when Claud Johnson was named sole heir.

Robert Johnson was destitute when he died in 1938 at age 27. A collection of his recordings won a Grammy in 1990.