If this nickname was invented in order to describe some kind of musical activity, then the blues artist known as Bat the Hummingbird might have been considered to have tremendous precision, for example. Perhaps it meant he could play the impossible, or maybe the man was a sadistic thug when it came to adorable creatures that might come hovering in one's garden. It is hoped and assumed that it is the former case as that would be a great quality for a musician whether they play piano or drums. In the case of Bat the Hummingbird, the man played both piano and drums, instruments which actually do belong to the same family tree of idiophones. Some listeners would probably like to know if the "bat" in question is the type that flies around at night, or the kind used to smack homers. But there are more important alternate theories in the blues universe, the most appealing of which is that there were actually two different artists that recorded under the name of Bat the Hummingbird. One of them might have actually been Cow Cow Davenport, a great boogie-woogie pianist who hooked up with Vocalion in 1927 as both a performer and talent scout. Davenport cut records under other names such as George Hamilton, no relation to the actor, bandleader, or country singer; the Georgia Grinder, and Bat the Hummingbird, if one buys into a theory that expands the on-hand animal population to two cows, a hummingbird, and maybe a bat.
This still leaves a fellow by the name of James Robinson who recorded on both piano and drums under the name of James "Bat the Hummingbird" Robinson and possibly just plain old Bat the Hummingbird, as well. There is a record of this man being born in Louisiana, and dying in the late '50s of tuberculosis. On drums, he backed up players such as the underrated James Crutchfield, and some excellent examples of their work together are available on the Biddle Street Barrelhousein' CD on Delmark. James "Bat the Hummingbird" Robinson also played drums on early albums by Luther Allison and B.B. King. In 1957, he recorded several tunes as a boogie-woogie pianist; one of them, "Bat's Blues," is enough to make some blues scholars want to send the pair of Davenport cows back to their own pasture. The earlier recordings by Bat the Hummingbird, the ones that were cut for the Gennett "race" series in the late '20s and are accused of really being by Davenport, include a song entitled "Bat's Own Blues." Two different bats, and two different bat's blues, or the same old bat and the same old blues? Maybe someone should go ask a hummingbird. The piano recordings, by whoever did them, have been reissued on both Document and the Shanachie-Yazoo imprint.