Robert Lee McCollum
|Birth name||Robert Lee McCollum|
|Also known as||Robert Lee McCoy|
|Born||November 30, 1909|
Helena, Arkansas, United States
|Died||November 5, 1967 (aged 57)|
Helena, Arkansas, United States
|Instruments||Vocals, slide guitar, harmonica|
|Labels||Victor, Bluebird, Decca, Aristocrat, Chess, Delmark, United, States|
|Associated acts||Memphis Jug Band|
Robert Lee McCollum (November 30, 1909 – November 5, 1967) was an American blues musician who played and recorded under the pseudonyms Robert Lee McCoy and Robert Nighthawk. He was the father of the blues musician Sam Carr. Nighthawk was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1983.
Life and career
McCollum was born in Helena, Arkansas. He left home at an early age and became a busking musician. After a period traveling through southern Mississippi, he settled for a time in Memphis, Tennessee, where he played with local orchestras and musicians, such as the Memphis Jug Band. A particular influence during this period was Houston Stackhouse, from whom he learned to play slide guitar and with whom he performed on the radio in Jackson, Mississippi.
After further travels through Mississippi, he found it advisable to take his mother's name and, as Robert Lee McCoy, moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in the mid-1930s. Local musicians with whom he played included Henry Townsend, Big Joe Williams, and Sonny Boy Williamson. This led to two recording dates in 1937, the four musicians recording together at the Victor Records studio in Aurora, Illinois, as well as recordings under his own name, including "Prowling Night-Hawk" (recorded 5 May 1937), from which he was to take his later pseudonym. These sessions led to Chicago blues careers for the other musicians, though not for McCoy, who continued his rambling life, playing and recording (for Victor/Bluebird Records and Decca Records) solo and with various other musicians, under various names. Kansas City Red was his drummer from the early 1940s to around 1946. He recorded Kansas City Red’s song "The Moon Is Rising".
McCoy became a familiar voice on local radio stations including WROX. A teenaged Ike Turner joined his band as a roadie in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Then Robert Lee McCoy disappeared. Within a few years, he resurfaced in 1948 as the electric slide guitarist Robert Nighthawk and began recording for Aristocrat and Chess Records, the latter of which was also Muddy Waters' label. In 1949 and 1950, Nighthawk and Waters' styles were close enough that they were in competition for promotional activity. Waters was the more marketable commodity, being more reliable and a more confident stage communicator, and thus received the attention.
In 1949, Nighthawk released the single "Annie Lee Blues"/"Black Angel Blues" on Aristocrat. The single was released under the name The Nighthawks, who were Nighthawk, pianist Ernest Lane, and bassist Willie Dixon. "Annie Lee Blues" reached #13 on the Billboard R&B chart on December 31, 1949. Nighthawk recorded his final session for Chess (formerly Aristocrat) in 1950. He continued to perform and record, taking up with United Records and States Records 1951 and 1952, but did not achieve great commercial success.
In 1963, Nighthawk was rediscovered busking in Chicago, and this led to further recording sessions and club dates and to his return to Arkansas, where he performed on the radio program King Biscuit Time, on KFFA. He continued giving live performances on Chicago's Maxwell Street until 1964.
In 2007, The Mississippi Blues Commission honored Nighthawk with a historical marker in Friars Point, Mississippi, on the Mississippi Blues Trail. The marker was placed at Friars Point because Nighthawk called the town his home at various times in his itinerant career. He recorded the song "Friars Point Blues" in 1940.
- Bricks in My Pillow, 1977, Delmark reissue of 1951 and 1952 United recordings
- Robert Nighthawk: Prowling with the Nighthawk (Document), 26 sides recorded for Bluebird, Decca, Aristocrat, and United from 1937 to 1952, including "My Sweet Lovin' Woman" (which he wrote under his given name, Robert McCollum)
- Ramblin' Bob (Saga), 24 tracks recorded for Victor, Decca, Chess, and United from 1937 to 1952
- Live on Maxwell Street (1964), as Robert Nighthawk and his Flames of Rhythm (reissued by Rounder Records, 1980, 1991; some versions include an extended interview with Nighthawk)
- Robert Nighthawk: Sweet Black Angel (1948)
- The Aristocrat of the Blues, MCA/Chess CHD2-9387
- Doc Rock. "The 1960s". The Dead Rock Stars Club. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
- "Black Angel Blues - Robert Nighthawk (The Nighthawks) (Aristocrat, 1949)". The Blues Foundation. November 10, 2016.
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 150. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 194. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Harris, Jeff (July 1, 2004). Komara, Edward; Lee, Peter (eds.). Blues Encyclopedia. Rutledge (published 2004). pp. 559–560. ISBN 1135958327. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
- "Kansas City Red: Biography". AllMusic.com. Retrieved 2015-10-05.
- Turner, Ike (1999). Takin' Back My Name: The Confessions of Ike Turner. Cawthorne, Nigel. London: Virgin. pp. 42–43. ISBN 1-85227-850-1. OCLC 43321298.
- Collis, John (2003). Ike Turner: King of Rhythm. The Do-Not Press. ISBN 978-1-904316-24-4.
- "The Robert Nighthawk Story". nighthawk.sundayblues.org.
- "Most-Played Juke Box Rhythm & Blues Records" (PDF). Billboard: 23. December 31, 1949.
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 264. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
-  Archived May 29, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
- "Bricks in My Pillow" – The Robert Nighthawk Story
- Jean Buzelin, liner notes to Ramblin' Bob (Saga Blues, 2004)
- Joel Snow, Robert Nighthawk – Blues Online at the Wayback Machine (archived 2006-05-24[Timestamp length])
- Jeff Harris, "Bricks in My Pillow: The Robert Nighthawk Story," Big Road Blues Show