Stax Museum Of American Soul Music Acquires Vast Collection Of Rare Records

They were owned by the late Chicago music historian and archivist Bob Abrahamian, who died in 2014.

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Photo: Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music in Memphis is celebrating its new acquisition of culturally significant collection of some 35,000 rare soul singles and albums. They were owned by the late Chicago music historian and archivist Bob Abrahamian, who died at just 35 in 2014.

Rolling Stone reports that the record collection is complemented by memorabilia and photography, much of which is centered on lesser-known soul artists from Chicago. In a statement, journalist Jake Austin said: “While [Abrahamian’s] obsession with discovering and coveting impossibly rare records was typical of many high-end collectors, his dedication to telling the stories of the men and women behind these sweet soul records, and the kindness he showed to these unjustly obscure cultural heroes, was something special.

“His record collection is worth a great deal of money, but the work he did documenting Chicago R&B and giving its practitioners the reverence and dignity they deserved was priceless.”

His life’s work

Abrahamian began his life’s work of collecting soul music recordings and memorabilia in the 1990s, as he gathered artifacts from the more obscure soul and R&B artists, and notably the distinctive “sweet soul,” of his home city. He had his own popular show, Sitting In The Park, on the University of Chicago-owned WHPK, and recorded interviews with many of the artists he admired and collected.

He also contributed memorabilia and images for compilations by such undervalued artists as the Superbs, Darrow Fletcher, and Mary Love, and liner notes to the 2012 collection Here Comes the Hurt: Soul Ballads from King, Federal & DeLuxe.

The Stax Museum’s director of collections and exhibitions Raka Nandi says that the Memphis institution is currently “studying why and how Bob Abrahamian amassed such a vast collection and how he became such a public, outspoken advocate of these artists.” After completing this work and assessing the collection’s contents, highlights from it will go on display as part of the museum’s permanent exhibition of soul music history. The archive will also be made available to researchers and scholars.

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