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Robert Nighthawk To Get Blues Trail Marker

Robert Lee "Nighthawk" McCollum, one of the foremost Blues guitarists of the 1940s-1960s, will be honored December 13 with a Blues Trail marker, the Mississippi Development Authority announced Wednesday, December 5.

McCollum's marker will be placed at 2 p.m. at Hirsberg's in Friars Point, which is where the guitarist called home at various times in his career. In 1936, McCollum was married there. McCollum, who died in 1967, was known for his slide guitar technique. He used a piece of metal tubing to slide along the frets of his guitar.

Some of his best known recordings included "Annie Lee," "Black Angel Blues," "The Moon is Rising," and "Crying Won't Help You." A posthumously released album recorded live at Chicago's Maxwell Street outdoor market also received critical praise.

Born in Helena, Arkansas, in 1909, McCollum began recording under the name Robert Lee McCoy in 1937. He became known as Nighthawk after his first record, "Prowling Night-Hawk" was released. McCollum became a well-known entertainer throughout Mississippi, Arkansas, and in Chicago. In 1940, he recorded "Friars Point Blues," singing of his home "down in Sweet Old Dixie Land."

Throughout the 1940s and occasionally afterward, he had radio programs in Clarksdale and Helena. McCollum also for a time lived at the Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale. Other residents of the hotel included performers from his band such as his wife Hazel, vocalist and girlfriend Ethel Mae Brown, and a young Ike Turner, who played piano.

During McCollum's time, Blues musicians played at juke joints and house parties in Friars Point, as well as in front of stores such as Hirsberg's. Merchants would sometimes hire musicians to attract crowds of potential customers. Other times musicians would just set up on sidewalks or street corners and play for tips. According to drug store owner Robert Hirsberg, merchants sometimes complained when the crowds were so thick no one could get into the store.

McCollum's son, Sam Carr, became one of the world’s most renowned Blues drummers.

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