Robert NighthawkRobert Nighthawk was born in Helena, Arkansas on 30/11/1909. His full birth name was Robert Lee McCollum. At an early age he left home to become a busker. After travelling through Mississippi, he settled in Memphis, Tennessee. There he would play with various musicians, including the Memphis Jug Band. He would also meet Houston Stackhouse there. Stackhouse taught him how to play slide guitar and they performed together on the radio in Jackson, Mississippi.
Robert changed his surname to his mother's surname of McCoy and moved to St Louis, Missouri in the mid 1930s.
In 1937 he would record with Henry Townsend, Big Joe Williams, and Sonny Boy Williamson at Victory Records studio in Aurora, Illinois. He would also record under his own name, which included the song "Prowling Night-Hawk". The song would inspire his pseudonym of Nighthawk. The recordings launched the careers of the other musicians, but McCoy would return to travelling. He would record for Victor/Bluebird Records and Decca Records solo and with various other musicians, using a variety of names. During the fourties , up till 1946 he would play alongside drummer Kansas City Red. He recorded on Kansas City Red's song "The Moon is Rising".
McCoy would be a regular on local radio stations. He would then disappear for a few years, when he returned it was with the new name Robert Nighthawk. He would start recording for Aristocrat and Chess Records.
In 1951 and 1952 he recorded with United Records and States Records.
In 1963 Nighthawk was found to be busking in Chicago. This led to some recording sessions and live performances. He returned to Arkansas to perform on the radio show "King Biscuit Time" on KFFA. He would continue to perform on Maxwell Street in Chicago till 1964.
In 1967 he suffered a stroke, after a heart attack and died of heart failure at his home in Helena.
He is honoured by a historical marker for the Mississippi Blues Trail by The Mississippi Blues Commission in Friars Point, Mississippi.