While Nighthawk recorded prolifically as a session musician before the war his postwar period finds him mostly as a leader. His session work is confined to some work in 1964 and some in 1967 the year he died. There is speculation that nighthawk appears as session guitarist on four tracks from Roosevelt Sykes' July 12, 1951 session for United Records as well. Blues Discography 1943-1970 lists Nighthawk as the guitarist but this can not be totally confirmed so I will list this session as probable. During the Roosevelt Sykes Regal session he recorded two numbers backing vocalist Essie Sykes.
1964 was a busy year with several recording opportunities including the renewal of his association with Chess Records who he last cut sides for in 1950. It appears that Nighthawk reunited with Willie Dixon who first produced him in 1948 and that Dixon offered him the opportunity to perform again. He waxed "Someday" and "Sorry My Angel" under his own name (see Chess page) and was used as a session guitarist on three tracks all cut at one session. He backed Koko Taylor on "What Kind Of Man Is This?" and "I Got What It Takes". He also backed Buddy Guy on the instrumental "Night Flight". These are the last sides he would cut for Chess.
Nighthawk was to do one more stint as a session musician that year under interesting circumstances. In 1964 Olle Helander and Lars Westman of Swedish Radio were on a trip to the US to document blues and jazz in Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans and San Francisco. They reached Chicago May 23rd and recorded Johnny Young accompanied by Slim Willis, Otis Spann and Robert Whitehead. In the afternoon they recorded Walter Horton with Robert Nighthawk. Nighthawk plays purely backup on these songs while Horton sings and lays down some great harp. It's unclear when these first aired on Swedish Radio but they were apparently aired in 1968, 1971 and 1983. These recordings were aired in the context of radio documentaries with interviews of the artists. Unfortunately Nighthawk and Horton were not interviewed. Most of this material has recently been released in excellent sound on the double disc sets I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 1 and I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 3 which is the first authorized release of these recordings. This material was first released on Walter Horton: An Offer You Can't Refuse/ Walter Horton and Paul Butterfield on Red Lighnin' Records. One side contains Paul Butterfield recordings from 1963. This material has been issued domestically under the same title from Castle Classics Records. It should be noted that these recordings are unauthorized and the sound quality is substandard.
After 1964 Nighthawk would only record once more for a session in August of 1967 and another session the middle of the following month. George Mitchell, who produced these field recordings, said "at the first session, as I recall, Nighthawk kind of backed up [Houston] Stackhouse, but he did some lead things at at Crystal Springs." Nighthawk was apparently sick during these sessions and Mitchell was surprised Nighthawk was up to taking lead. "Everbody was jammin', taking turns, doing this and that in Crystal Springs, and Nighthawk did take the lead." Mitchell states that "Blues Before Midnight" (Arhoolie CD 401) was the last song Nighthawk ever recorded.12 Nighthawk died less than two months after these recordings. The band consisted of Houston Stackhouse and Peck Curtis with Carey Mason taking the vocal on one track. The music harks back to Nighthawk and Stackhouse's early delta days and the music is beautifully played. Tommy Johnson's influence looms large with five of his songs being covered. In a way Nighthawk's life had come circle: He was once again playing with Stackhouse who taught how to play guitar (Johnson's "Big Road Blues", "Cool Water Blues" and Big Fat Mama were the first songs he taught Nighthawk) Stackhouse in turn learned directly from Tommy Johnson and here were the two old friends performing the songs of Johnson together one final time. The material from this session can be found on Arhoolie's Mississippi Delta Blues- Blow My Blues Away Vol. 1 & 2. Six additional songs from the session can be found on Testament's Masters of Modern Blues Vol. 4/Houston Stackhouse & Robert Nighthawk.
Home Blues Classics Chicago 1946-1954
Walter Horton- Vocal, Harmonica
I Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 1 (Jefferson Records SBACD 2653/4) *
Blueskvarter: Chicago 1964, Vol. 3 (Jefferson Records SBACD 12658/9)
Nighthawk and the Blues Rhythm Boys
Masters Of Modern Blues:
Robert Nighthawk/Houston Stackhouse
Robert Nighthawk: The George Mitchell Collection Vol. 44 (BLM1103) ++