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See the photos that made RA Coleman an institution in Memphis.
While searching for early Memphis Recording Service discs for their
September 17th story on record producer Sam Phillips, The Kitchen
Sisters came across an acetate hand-labeled - "The Wedding of Curlie Lee
Smith and Charles Patterson, Jr., November 1, 1953 in collection of
Memphis professor David Evans. His wife had come across these oversized
discs in an antique store and thought that her husband, an avid
blues/home recording collector might be interested in them.
The disc was made by R. A. Coleman, an African American photographer who
was recording the rituals and festivities of Memphis' black community
during the same years Sam Phillips was doing similar recordings in
Memphis' white neighborhoods.
As home recording technology became available, photographer R. A.
Coleman began experimenting with sound. Soon in addition to a
photographic memory from R. A. Coleman, customers could purchase an
"electronic memory" as well.
In a research trip back to Memphis in March, The Kitchen Sisters, looked
up the name "Charles Patterson Jr" in the phonebook and called. And
Curlie Mae (the Reverend mispronounced her name in the ceremony)
answered, and the image and story of RA Coleman started to unfold. The
Pattersons' had lost their wedding recording long ago and were delighted
to be reunited with it.
Levi Frasier, a local playwright, led us the RA Coleman's grandson, C.
Eric Lincoln and to his mother and uncle. And with these interviews and
music of Coleman's time, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva prepared this
portrait of "Electronic Memories: RA Coleman's Memphis."
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Copyright © 1999 The Kitchen Sisters