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The famous Mother of the Blues doesn't want you to ever forget her-that's how much she loves her friends! So we put her picture on her latest record, 'Dream Blues.' On the other side is 'Lost Wandering Blues' by 'Ma.' Accompaniments by Pruitt Twins on those guitars that made Kansas City famous.... This is the first time, to our knowledge, that any artist's picture has ever appeared on a record. Paramount is always first with the features - Chicago Defender ad, 7 June 1924 for Ma Rainey's souvenir record

Author Topic: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk  (Read 8786 times)

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Offline jharris

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #15 on: December 09, 2007, 11:25:34 AM »
It was suggested I post this here to keep the McCoy/Nighthawk stuff in one place.

I recently received an email from someone involved with the Mississippi Blues Commission. The commission are the folks behind the Mississippi Blues Trail which when completed will be composed of more than 100 historical markers and interpretive sites located throughout the state. From the press release: "On Thursday, December 13, 2007 at 2:00 PM, MDA Tourism Heritage Trails Program, the Mississippi Blues Commission and the Clarksdale/Coahoma Tourism Commission will honor blues legend, Robert Lee "Nighthawk" McCollum. The ceremony will take place at the Hirsberg Drug Store located at 649 2nd Street in Friars Point, MS."

Friars Point is fitting as it was obviously a place close to Nighthawk's heart. He lived and married in Friars Point as well as cutting the magnificent "Friars Point Blues" for Decca in 1940. Of course he was also quite fond of Helena which is right across the river. As his son Sam Carr said, "he loved Helena that's the reason I buried him there."


Jeff H.

Offline Johnm

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #16 on: July 04, 2008, 08:07:41 AM »
Hi all,
In the course of driving from Greater Yellowstone Music Camp in Wyoming back to Seattle last week, Orville Johnson played for me a Rounder CD release from the early '90s, "Robert Nighthawk on Maxwell Street", and it was a real ear-opener.  On most of the CD, Robert is working a very small combo, with Johnny Young playing rhythm guitar and a drummer I can't recall.  In this setting, Robert Nighthawk completely monopolizes the solo space, and I don't know if I can recall hearing that set-up work as well elsewhere as it does here, for he is sensational--so sensational, in fact, that I can't even imagine how his playing could be improved upon in any way.  His electric slide playing is my favorite I've ever heard, with incredible searing tone, perfect time, phrasing and intonation.  His rhythm playing behind his own soloing is terrific, hitting little chordal shots with perfect placement, like a great piano player.  His single-string, conventionally fretted lead playing is also superlative.  I really think he makes most of the Chicago blues players working in that period sound like kids in comparison.  On one tune ("Nighthawk's Boogie"?), he plays a very boppish, sophisticated line and quotes Charlie Parker's "Ornithology".  He also does a wonderful version of the song "Annie Lee" that dj and Bunker Hill reference earlier in this thread, that is very "country", with long and short phrasing, hearkening back to his Mississippi roots.  The CD also includes a brief interview with Robert Nighthawk conducted by Michael Bloomfield.
It's eerie to hear someone play so well who received, relatively, so little recognition.  He really was one of the very best players in that style I've ever heard.  If you enjoy strong, well-grounded electric blues by first-generation practitioners, you should seek this CD out.
All best,
Johnm 
« Last Edit: July 04, 2008, 08:43:24 AM by Johnm »

Offline Slack

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #17 on: July 04, 2008, 10:10:12 PM »
There is a great youtube video clip of Nighthawk playing with, most likely, the same trio on Maxwell street. Great street scenes.  here is the description and clip:

Maxwell st. circa 1964 from 'And This is Free' film. Robert sings his song Eli's Place

http://youtube.com/watch?v=oypAbJj-fEs

Anyone seen the film "And This is Free"?

http://www.amazon.com/This-Free-Various-Artists/dp/B000000DQO

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #18 on: July 05, 2008, 12:17:09 AM »
Robert sings his song Eli's Place
FWIW he's singing Dr Clayton's Cheating & Lying Blues. The good doctor recorded quite a few numbers that were picked up in postwar years, mainly by B.B. King. At at the bottom of Stefan's Dr Clayton page http://www.wirz.de/music/claydfrm.htm he's kindly supplied the, albeit rather ancient, Talking Blues magazine Clayton appreciation. Just click on each page to read.

Offline dj

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #19 on: July 05, 2008, 05:05:02 PM »
Thanks for pointing out the Doctor Clayton article, Bunker Hill.  I recommend the article, even though I disagree with Chris Smith on a few points.  (I think the lyrics to "Pearl Harbor Blues" are excellent - the line about how "we even sold the Japanese brass and iron scrap" shows an awareness of the details of international events that I think is rare indeed in blues from the early 40s.)

It's sobering to note how hard it was back in 1977 for someone like Chris Smith to hear all of Dr. Clayton's recorded works.  Or maybe not - are his 1946 sides currently available anywhere?
« Last Edit: September 17, 2010, 10:34:19 AM by dj »

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2008, 11:39:25 PM »
It's sobering to note how hard it was back in 1977 for someone like Chris Smith to hear all of Dr. Clayton's recorded works.  Or maybe not - are his 1946 sides currently available anywhere?
They are the last six tracks on that Japanese CD of 2002 shown in Stefan's discography but that won't be easy to find and the Old Tramp must be long gone. I'm surprised that one of those Snapper-type enterprises hasn't compiled a complete Clayton.

It is also interesting to note that in 1986 when Tony Burke wrote his Blues & Rhythm feature (also on Stefan's page) he could only cite as available one track on a 1982 Epic double LP (unusually missed by Stefan). There's also no "source" mention of Talking Blues magazine which leads me to think it had passed him by.

But I seem to be straying far and wide from where this topic began......
« Last Edit: July 06, 2008, 12:03:49 AM by Bunker Hill »

Offline dj

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2008, 06:04:05 AM »
The 1993 Document CD that issues all of Clayton's pre-war recordings bears a note which says that his 6 1946 recordings will be issued on CD "at a later date", along with Sunnyland Slim's recordings as "Doctor Clayton's Buddy".  The date is now quite a bit later, and we're still waiting...

Offline blueshome

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #22 on: September 17, 2010, 09:56:12 AM »
Looking around and found this:
www.nighthawk.sundayblues.org
Excellent articles

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #23 on: September 17, 2010, 10:48:26 AM »
Looking around and found this:
www.nighthawk.sundayblues.org
Excellent articles
Oh yes indeed, hours of endless pleasure can be derived from this enterprise.

Offline daveharrisonemanband

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Re: Robert Lee McCoy aka Nighthawk
« Reply #24 on: November 20, 2010, 10:48:44 PM »
Great thread! Thanks Bunker Hill, as always. I'm surprised I didn't find this one before. Haven't been here in awhile.
I must say that referring to Robert Nighthawk as a second echelon or minor artist is not giving him his due, to say the least. I rate him as a first tier blues artist and his influence on Muddy, in particular is very obvious. Born in 1909, he was older than Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James and a host of artists that inevitably seem to be mentioned in relation to him. He apparently played Muddy's first wedding and Muddy, when asked who Aristocrat Records should record mentioned Nighthawk. His versions of Annie Lee (often called Anna Lee and also famously recorded by his number one student, Earl Hooker), Sweet Black Angel, Crying Won't Help You, Maggie Campbell and The Moon Is Rising are all sublime and deserving of more listening/acclaim. His '64 Maxwell Street recordings give an indication of his power and versatility. It should be mentioned that Nighthawk Boogie (named after the fact) is almost certainly not Nighthawk, sorry the artist's name escapes me now. Check the CD box Maxwell St Blues, which collects the recordings of all of the artists involved in the And This Is Free film documentary (where the Nighthawk video comes from). By the way, it is also likely that Mike Bloomfield plays guitar on some of the session (he was close friends with Norman Dayron, who was the cameraman), notably the solo on Honey Hush, sounds just like Bloomfield.             
Another example of Nighthawk's lack of credit occurs in Ted Gioa's book Delta Blues, where he gets less than a page...HUH? As an artist who truly moved with the times he should have a much bigger name. He played fabulous harp as Robert Lee McCoy behind Sleepy John Estes, Big Joe and His Rhythm (Joe McCoy, his cousin) and Peetie Wheatstraw to name a few. He played excellent acoustic guitar behind Sonny Boy#1. He was a key transitional figure in the electrifying of the guitar and was highly regarded by both Muddy and BB King (who borrowed Crying Won't Help You). His singing was mournful yet tuneful (what's wrong with Cecil Gant? I think he's great too!). He looked forward, not back, recording Joe Turner, Jr Parker, BB and other more modern covers. If he had a downfall it might be his lack of original material. I think part of his lack of popularity related to his lack of follow-up on recordings made in the early '50's, returning to the south rather than staying in Chicago.
I think he rates right up there with every artist I've mentioned. Okay, nuff said!   

 


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