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Robert Nighthawk Live On Maxwell Street

"Yeah, I'm gonna murder my baby
Ooo, if she don't stop cheatin' and lyin'
(I'm gonna put a hurtin' on her)
Well, I'd rather be in penitentiary

Than to be worried out of my mind"*

After a long absence Nighthawk returned to Chicago in 1964 and recorded several times including a blistering set taped live on Maxwell St. in conjunction with the filming of Mike Shea's 1964 documentary "And This is Free." Maxwell St. was at the heart of Chicago's black ghetto and was a bustling open air market.

Jewtown Was Jumpin' Like A Champ

The market became a magnet for musicians just arriving to Chicago as well as those already established on the local blues scene. Hound Dog Taylor a veteran of Maxwell Street had this to say: "You used to get out on Maxwell Street on a Sunday Morning and pick you out a good spot, babe. Dammit, we'd make more money than I ever looked at. Put you out a tub, you know, and put a pasteboard in there, like a newspaper. I'm telling you, Jewtown (Maxwell St.) was Jumpin' like a champ, jumpin' like mad on Sunday morning."
19 Nighthawk played regularly on Maxwell St. and in 1964 Pete Welding wrote an account about Nighthawk and his compatriots playing on Maxwell St. for Blues Unlimited magazine: "Right around the corner could be heard the fine group that Robert Nighthawk was leading with John Lee Granderson on guitar and a drummer, whose name I was unable to catch. (probably James Smith). John Wrencher, the one-armed harmonica player came by and sat in for some exciting numbers. Nighthawk played a number of his old songs and especially pleased everyone with his strong "bottleneck" playing; a young harmonica player called Carey Bell later sat in and electrified us all. Nighthawk and Granderson have recently pooled forces and work several nights a week at various clubs."34

Nighthawk Business Card 

Rounder records first put some of this music out in 1980 as Robert Nighthawk Live On Maxwell Street 1964. At the time of their release these recordings were incorrectly credited, both for the songs, publishing and for much of the personnel. It also turns out that the performances themselves were edited, giving two decades' of listeners an incomplete and historically incorrect picture of those recordings as they were originally captured. Finally in May of 1999 the 2-CD set And This Is Maxwell Street was released in Japan on the P-Vine label produced by Studio IT and issued in 2000 in the US by Rooster Records with an additional CD containing a 44 minute interview of Nighthawk conducted by Mike Bloomfield. The set contains all the original unedited recordings made in conjunction with the film including many performances that no more than a handful of people had heard in more than thirty years. The music has been remastered from the original tapes and is superior in sound to the Rounder release. In addition  we finally have the correct musician credits. The other previously unidentified guitarist on these recordings turns out to be none other than Shea's close friend Mike Bloomfield. Deemed "unauthentic" by Shea, none of Bloomfield's work was filmed and all of his off-mike lead work with Nighthawk was consequently edited out from the tapes on the Rounder album. Here, Bloomfield takes the lead on the two Johnny Young numbers and also shows up on Nighthawk's version of "Dust My Broom" and on the now longer medley of "Annie Lee"/"Sweet Black Angel," swapping licks with the old master. In addition to Nighthawk there are fine performances by Johnny Young, Big John Wrencher, Blind Arvella Gray, Carey Bell, Big Mojo Elem, James Brewer, Carrie Robinson and Little Arthur King.
And This Is Maxwell Stret

Nighthawk's performances form the centerpiece of these landmark recordings. If the original Rounder package was an eye-opener as to what Nighthawk was truly capable of in a live setting, this new package is twice as illuminating, making him present on 22 of the 30 selections on here. Unlike his studio recordings this set finds Nighthawk in a raucous mood playing explosive slide and stinging B.B. King influenced single string runs.

You Have More Fun In The Street

Nighthawk really stretches out on some of his old classics including the stunning medley of his two biggest hits "Anna Lee/Sweet Black Angel" as well as a storming reprise of his "Take it Easy Baby. " Nighthawk shows off his wide repertoire playing Big Joe Turner's "Honey Hush", Dr. Clayton's "Cheating and Lying Blues" and Percy Mayfield's "I Need Love So Bad."  In an interview done by Mike Bloomfield, Nighthawk, reflected on what brought him back to Maxwell Street: "Lately I went back to Maxwell St.- I been playing off and on for 24 years now. Most all music more or less starts right off from Maxwell St. and so you wind up going back there. ...See it's more hard to play out in the street than it is in a place of business, but you have more fun in the street, looks like. Well, so many things you can see, so many different things going on, I get a kick out of it, I guess."
12

Mike Shea

During the summer of 1964, while Mike Shea was making And This Is Free he was persuaded by blues guitarist Michael Bloomfield to film an interview with Robert Nighthawk. The video portion of the interview has been lost, but four reels of sound tape survive--nearly forty minutes in all--most of which has not been heard in decades. A 13-minute, unauthorized edit of the tapes was released in 1991, but the entire historic interview with Nighthawk is available again. The film And This Is Free is now available on DVD. Bloomfield recalled the following: "We filmed Robert Nighthawk, the great guitar plater who taught Muddy Waters how to play and who was this rare figure nobody ever saw. The Robert Nighthawk sequence was shot on the back porch of a tenemant building that had a dirt yard where people would come and dance."41


Robert Nighthawk - Cheating And Lying Blues

 

-Read a review of And This Is Maxwell Street (DOC)

-Read Live On Maxwell Street - Setting The Record Straight (DOC)

-Read the press release for And This Is Maxwell Street

*Robert Nighthawk, Cheating And Lying Blues

All Clips In MP3 Format


1. The Sun Is Shining 
2. Can't Hold out Much Longer 
3. Juke Medley 
4. That's All Right 
5. Maxwell Street Jam 
6. Lucille 
7. Cheating And Lying Blues
8. Honky Tonk 
9. Dust My Broom 
10. Peter Gunn Jam 
11. I Need Love So Bad 
12. All I Want for My Breakfast  
13. Take It Easy, Baby

14. Mama, Talk to Your Daughter  
15. I'm Ready 
16. Carey'n On 
17. Back Off Jam 
18. Anna Lee/Sweet Black Angel 
19. Love You Tonight 
20. Time Have Come
21. Cruisin' In A Cadillac 
22. Honey Hush


Gordon Quinn Interview
(Gordon Quinn was the sound engineer on And This Is Free)

Tracks 1,12:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar
Johnny Young- Guitar, Vocals
Michael Bloomfield- Guitar
Other Personal Unknown

Tracks 2,6,19:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar
Big John Wrencher- Harmonica, Vocals

Little Arthur Duncan- Guitar on 7

Other Personal Unknown

Tracks 3,5,15,16,17, 21:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar
Carey Bell- Harmonica, Vocals

Little Arthur Duncan- Guitar

Other Personal Unknown

Tracks 7-12,13,18,20,22:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar, Vocals
John Lee Granderson- Guitar
Jimmy Collins- Drums

Michael Bloomfield- Guitar 7 (probably)

Tracks 4,8:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar, Vocals
Other Personal Unknown

Track 14:

Robert Nighthawk- Guitar, Vocals
Big Mojo Elem- Vocals, Harmonica (possibly)

Other Personal Unknown

September 1964


 

And This Is Free

 

Live On Maxwell Street