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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rhythm and blues wild man Screamin' Jay Hawkins was pretty sure that he fathered roughly 57 children during his life. He just couldn't keep track of them all.
Now friends and family members of the eccentric singer, who died in Paris last month at age 70, have begun a worldwide search for his sons and daughters, who may or may not know that Hawkins, best-known for his 1956 hit single "I Put a Spell on You," is their father.
But those long-lost children of Hawkins, who sometimes performed his voodoo-inspired blues after emerging from a coffin, shouldn't expect any money from their late father's estate.
"It's not like there's some huge pot at the end of the rainbow," says Hawkins' friend and lawyer Gary Spritz. "They're entitled to nothing, to be honest with you."
Spritz adds that he has obtained strands of Hawkins' hair and could use them to scrutinize the DNA of anyone claiming to be the late singer's son or daughter.
Spritz says the search, being conducted largely on the Internet, is more for the purposes of "closure," even though he hopes to track down some of the children before Hawkins' will is submitted for probate in May.
"Are YOU one of Jay's kids?" asks a Web site dedicated to the search, which features a photo of the smiling Hawkins, who was married six times and apparently sired a prodigious number of children out of wedlock.
The Web site (www.jayskids.com) notes that Hawkins "reportedly fathered up to 57 children" and asks visitors to contact his estate if "you believe you may have had a child by Screamin' Jay Hawkins or if you believe you are a child of Screamin' Jay Hawkins."
Maral Nigolian, a longtime friend of Hawkins, says that the performer, known for his outlandish live performances featuring a flaming skull named "Henry," told her before his death that he wanted to reach out to his kids--all of them.
"The last time I visited him in Paris, he told me that he had 57 children that he knew of," Nigolian says. "He personally didn't think there was anything wrong with that, but he hoped that he would have more time to find them and hoped that it would be done. He said, 'You do it, Maral.'"
Nigolian, an independent film producer currently making a documentary about Hawkins, concedes that contacting all of his kids could be nearly impossible and adds that some of those who knew he was their father were not speaking to him.
"He also performed all over the world; he was married to a Japanese woman one time, he was married to a Hawaiian woman one time, and he had a number of relationships," she says.
Nigolian says the search is not intended to find heirs who might have a claim to his estate but to bring all of the children together at least once in honor of their late dad.
"If it's possible, we'd like to bring all his children under one tent, take his ashes, and have a ceremony in his honor," Spritz says.
"We think we'll find at least 37 of them," Spritz adds. "We'll weed out the ones we're definitely not going to find, and with enough word of mouth, we think we can find the rest."