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
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.