Slide Guitar Legend: Robert Nighthawk

0 Posted by - November 9, 2020 - Black History, BLACK MEN, BLACK MUSIC, History, LATEST POSTS

Known as Robert Nighthawk, Robert Lee McCollum was a blues musician hailing from Helena, Arkansas. Born in 1909, McCollum would begin his career in music very early.


Early Career

He was originally based in Mississippi but left for Memphis’ blues scene. During his time here, he would improve and pick up some techniques from veteran players. His career saw major progression after he learned steel guitar. This saw him as a much in demand performer for other acts as a live player and session player.

McCollum moved to St. Louis during the 1930s and would also record solo material using his birth name, Prowling Night-Hawk and others. The interesting thing is session artists working for Nighthawk would move on to greater fame while his career would continue upon its path. That said, he would record more throughout the late 1930s and into the 1940s.

Eventually, McCollum disappeared from music during the early 1940s. During this period, it’s unknown if he simply performed live and didn’t enter the studio or if he truly retired for a time.


Return As Robert Nighthawk

Towards the end of the 1940s, McCollum returned as a much more refined guitarist. His return was very apt as electric guitar had taken over blues by this time. His main competition upon re-entering the music scene was Muddy Walters, someone he drew a number of comparisons. As a matter of fact, both Nighthawk and Waters shared top billing on Chess Records. By 1950, Waters became the choice for labels and Robert Nighthawk moved on to smaller labels during the decade.

By the early 1960s, Nighthawk had passed his active recording period and was performing on the streets of Chicago. This period in music was hot for blues nostalgia and he was able to get regular show dates and appearances on radio programs such as KFFA’s King Biscuit Time.

On November 5, 1967, at the age of 57, Robert Nighthawk would pass as a result of a stroke and heart complications. Like his son Sam Carr, he is immortalized on the Mississippi Blues Trail.



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1 Comment

  • Lawrence Cohn November 9, 2020 - 2:10 pm

    Robert Nighthawk was also a great Harmonica player…
    lots of recorded examples.