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Chicago Blues

TBT – Robert Nighthawk “Bricks In My Pillow” Lifts You Up

May 29
17:21 2014

RN - bricks in my pillow artimage

Born in Helena, Arkansas in 1909, Robert Nighthawk (Robert Lee McCollum) was revered by the likes of B.B. King and Muddy Waters, and he influenced the work of such greats as Elmore James, Earl Hooker, and even Muddy himself. Consistently ranked as one of the greatest slide players ever, he recorded for many top-tier labels Victor Records, Bluebird, Decca, Aristocrat Records, Chess Records, Delmark Records, and others.

Although Nighthawk’s playing was brilliant, he was prone to what is often described as a “nomadic lifestyle,” and was not perceived by labels to be as reliable as his peers such as Muddy Waters, which contributed to him not achieving the commercial recording success his peers enjoyed.

Bricks In My Pillow, on Delmark Records, was released in 1998. It is a collection of masters, originally recorded at United Records in July 1951, and October 1952. United Records, owned by Leonard Allen, was the first black-owned record label, and they recorded some of the finest blues, jazz, and gospel performances ever put to disc. What makes this album so precious for blues fans is that Nighthawk was truly more content playing live, in juke joints, and while there are obviously recordings of him, there are not as many as there could have been, and certainly not as many as there should have been.

The music on Bricks In My Pillow, is some of the finest blues ever laid down on a disc. The quality of the playing by Nighthawk and company is sinfully good. This album will make a listener smile, cry, and everything in-between. Whether it’s a straight-up Chicago blues rendering of the B.B. King classic “Crying Won’t Help You,” with its killer slide, piano backing, and smooth as silk vocal from Nighthawk, or the swinging Jump blues of “Take It Easy, Baby,” this music grabs a listener and shakes them to the core. Other incredible cuts include “Seventy-Four,” with it’s magnificent guitar tone, and a heart stopping “The Moon Is Rising,” with its slow, smooth swagger. “Nighthawk Boogie” is the very definition of what a great boogie should be: drama, movement, all wrapped up in a thrilling excursion that leaves us breathless, and wanting more. “Bricks In My Pillow” is another Chicago blues classic delivered with a truckload of pizazz, and “Feel So Bad” has a wonderful 1940s vibe, and is once again delivered with a huge helping of astonishing guitar tone.

Any blues lover that listens to this album will be moved to aural ecstasy. This is definitely a must have for any collection.

Robert Nighthawk


About Author

Barry Kerzner

Barry Kerzner

For as long as I can remember I have loved music, especially Blues & Jazz. Now I write and share that love of music with others. To see my photoart, visit

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