Robert Nighthawk & Link Wray- Two Guys I Never Met….

     I know I just posted this clip (see the Ike Turner posting) but it’s so great and it fits today’s subject Robert Nighthawk so here it is again, from the film …and this is Free a documentary about Maxwell Street in Chicago’s Jewtown section which used to be a flea market and gathering place for street musicians every Sunday. The city tore down all of Maxwell St. and moved it across the road into a mall several years back so scenes like these are long gone as is Mr. Nighthawk (born Robert Lee McCollum in Helena, Arkansas, Nov. 30 1909, next year is his centennial. He died on Nov. 5, of ’67 just before the blues revival that might have put a few bucks in his pockets arrived).
     Nightawk had a long recording career in years, short in output. He recorded under the name of Robert Lee McCoy for BlueBird in ’37-38, and again billed as “Peetie’s Boy” (to cash in on the popularity of William Bunch aka Peetie Wheatstraw “The Devil’s Son In Law”) in 1940. After World War II he changed his name to Robert Nighthawk (supposedly on the run from the law, but who knows…).  His post war sides are great, some of them are almost rockabilly (, best are the ones recorded for the United and States labels which are incdredibly rare although they’ve been re-issued on the Pearl label which is owned by Delmark (which is owned by the guy who runs the Jazz Record Mart, one of the last great record stores in the U.S.). A 78 of “Maggie Cambell” just sold on Ebay for over $500 (the financial meltdown doesn’t seem to have effected the price of rare records yet, at least not the ones I want). He recorded for Aristocrat (which became Chess) in ’48 and ’49, I have a Japanese LP of all those recordings which are also scattered about on various compilations. Here’s one of  rockers, his version of  “Kansas City Blues.  Oddly enough Ernest Tubb would cover this one and his version (here) is as bluesy as Nighthawks’ is country. Don’t you love the way Tubb says “chump”? “Nighthawk cut a last session for the Testament label in ’66 with his guitar teacher Houston Stackhouse. Here’s a five song tribute with some interview stuff spliced in, taken from an old aircheck. The tunes are “Prowlin’ Nighthawk” from Blue Bird, 1937, “Maggie Cambell” issued on States in ’52, “”Goin’ Down To Eli’s” and “Anna Lee Blues” were recorded live on Maxwell Street in ’63 (and are from the film) and the final tune, a version of Tommy Johnson’s “Big Road Blues” is from the Testament LP

When talking about slide players, the old timers always put Robert Nighthawk at the top of the list, he was one blues man who really could play. He was so good he was hired to be the entertainment at Muddy Waters’ wedding party.

The Link Wray clip is from the Jack Spector TV show which showed locally in Providence, RI, an after school Bandstand type show. Not Link’s best tune but dig that Danelectro Longhorn! It’s the only early TV footage of Link I’ve ever stumbled across. He’ll be gone three years now this month, he died on Nov. 5, 2003. Here’s an aircheck set of five Link instrumentals to remember him by. The tunes are “Fat Back”, “Slinky”, “Vendetta”, “The Swag” and “The Earth Is Crying”. The good folks at Norton records have an incredible amount of Link Wray stuff in their catalogue including four volumes of rarities (Missing Links Vol.1-4), a double CD of the complete Swan Recordings, and best of all the Norton Jukebox 45 series which has a dozen killer 45’s which is still the best way to hear rock’n’roll.

Link lived in New York City for many years and played at Max’s many times and except to get a record signed I never really talked to him. The only impression I got of him was that he was rather nice and very taciturn. He did lend Quine his Ampeg amp which Quine used on much of Richard Hell & the Voidoids’ Blank Generation album.   Even when Link descended into bar band heavy metal in the later years, he shows always started off great, nobody could smoke a cigarette, play an E chord and walk backwards quite like Link could.
If you’re keeping up with the financial bail out plan you need to look at this.
I still think my plan was better (see “The Hound Saves Capitalism”). If Obama is serious about change something has to be done about the way business is done these days, as in, fuck the workers, fuck the stockholders, let’s downsize and/or out source to save money and redirect our savings to executive pay/bonus/benefit packages.
That bail out money that was supposed to jump start the banks is not being lent out, it’s being used to leverage buyouts and of course huge executive paychecks. Now that we have a guy headed to the White House that’s got our hopes up that he’s serious about doing the right thing I gotta wonder, is it even possible? Bush’s speech at the UN last week, where he blamed the financial meltdown on “too much regulation” needed a laugh track. The subtext however was painfully obvious– “we tried to give the poor blacks and Latinos home ownership, they just don’t deserve it”!    My prediction, to
paraphrase Hallie Sallasse is “War! War in the east, war in the west, war everywhere”.
Look at history and then look at the world. Pick your spot and watch it explode.

13 thoughts on “Robert Nighthawk & Link Wray- Two Guys I Never Met….”

  1. Got to play w/ Mr. Wray right before he died. He fucked up ‘Baby What You Want Me To Do’ three times and called his band a bunch of assholes for screwin’ up the tempo. Good times!

  2. Did wife Olive join the band on tamborine? Last time I saw him she spent the whole set on stage either playing the thing on the wrong beat and throwing off the band or re-adjusting Link’s hair extension, later she refused to let Link’s older kids from previous women backstage to say hi to their dad.

  3. “On The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” is the tune Laurel and Hardy lip-sync to in one of their films. It’s a classic scene!

  4. Hi Hound Great Blog- no the greatest blog….- Haven;t talked to you in a while….Do you have that CD – “Sacred Steel – Traditional African-American Steel Guitar Music from Florida” on Arhoolie CD-450? The first cut “Don’t Let the Devil Ride” is very haunting. XOX Dickie Nelson

  5. My wife and I moved back to Butte, Montana. I think we were pulled back by the vortex of the big mining pit here. Not much gospel out here but we make up for it by a bunch of other weird stuff – you should come out for Evel Knievel days – last year some 10 year old set the jump record for 50CC bikes. Lots of bars too if you still drink….. All the best and keep up the good work.

  6. That brings to mind that “sex, drugs and rock&roll – I could give up the rock&roll” quote…. If you are in the mood, I would like to see you do an exploration of famous actors that played crazy people so well because they really were crazy – Jonathan Winters immediately comes to mind, but I think Richard Pryor, the dream of Jeanie guy, Crispin Glover, Bruce Benett, Paul Lynde(?)etc might also fit the category. Artaud wrote that essay “The Theater and the Plague” where the best actors are the ones that really believe they are the character they are playing. I would love to hear your genius explore this if you have not already.

  7. It’s not the govt’s job to give anybody a place to live, so Bush was right in that respect; and fuck obama: his “economic stimulus” is the same old corporate bailout horseshit, but the left wont call him on it for fear of being “racist”; his quasi-facist poster art and his crypto-race baiting is as assholish as anything from the past 8 years.

  8. The clip of Robert Nighthawk on Maxwell Street is so exciting – amazing!! Like being transported back to a time and place I didn't think I'd ever be able to see. Thanks.


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