Screamin' Jay's Illegitimate Family Reunion

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Of his three legitimate children, Hawkins had the closest relationship with Irene, now a puppeteer in Cleveland. "He saw a lot of his work in hers," Nigolian says.

Constipation Blues

Biographers don't even bother counting Hawkins' string of lovers, the most notorious of whom, Pat Newborn, stabbed him in the back — literally — when she caught him two-timing her.

But apparently his suffering was in the name of true love. The other woman in that relationship — Virginia — became his wife in 1961, and the union lasted 20 years. In fact, it was in a Hawaiian hospital that Hawkins wrote one of his most outlandish tunes, "Constipation Blues," 4 1/2 minutes of bathroom hell set to music, compete with Hawkins moaning and groaning, albeit not much like Muddy Waters wailing for a lost love.

No More Coffins

Ironically, Hawkins — so famous for his coffin stage entrance that a society of morticians derided him — insisted on cremation.

"He figured he'd spent enough time in a coffin," Nigolian says. "He wanted his ashes cast upon the water."

Truth is, Hawkins never really liked coffins all that much. Famed New York DJ Alan Freed had to pay him $2,000 in 1956 to lure him into his first box. But it was an instant hit, not to mention a career-defining moment. … And it sure seemed to have gone over big with the chicks.

Buck Wolf is a producer at The Wolf Files is a weekly feature. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.