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R.A. Coleman's
"Electronic Memories"

Produced by The Kitchen Sisters, Davia Nelson & Nikki Silva

The Young RA Coleman
The Robert A. Coleman Archives

  • Listen with RealAudio in 14.4, 28.8,
    or G2 SureStream.
  • 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