Born in Helena, Arkansas in 1909, his real name was Robert McCollum and he was a first cousin to Houston Stackhouse. His first musical instrument was the harmonica and he started performing in local juke joints and on street corners. Robert Nighthawk learned guitar playing from his cousin, and as teenagers the pair worked their way around the Delta region, playing parties, fish fries and bars.  Their itinerant partnership came to an end when Robert was involved in a shooting and, changing his name to Robert McCoy, he moved to St Louis.

There he began to play with bluesmen such as Peetie Wheatstraw, Big Joe Williams and John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He made his first recordings when he was in his late twenties for Bluebird Records. He recorded again in 1940 for Decca, as Robert Nighthawk, taking his name from his song "Prowling Nighthawk". He moved back to his hometown and appeared on 'King Biscuit Time' on the KFFA radio station, fronted by Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), and with cousin Houston Stackhouse among others. In the late 1940's during a visit to Chicago he recorded for Aristocrat, and what are probably his best known songs, '"Black Angel Blues" and "Anna Lee" were released. His moderate recording success was not enough to prevent him spending the next decade doing what he loved most, playing the bars and clubs in Missouri and Arkansas. The blues 'revival' of the 1960's brought him back to Chicago for a while and he recorded again in 1964 for Chess. He also repaid the debt he felt he owed Stackhouse by supporting him at a recording session. As his health began to fail Nighthawk returned once again to Helena where he continued to work the small juke joints and bars until his death in 1967.

    I'm Gettin' Tired (excerpt)