Robert Lee Coleman of Macon, Georgia played guitar for Percy Sledge from 1964 to 1969. In 1970, James Brown hired him for his new band, “the JBs.” Robert’s guitar is featured on Brown’s album “Hot Pants”, including the songs “Revolution of the Mind,” recorded live at the Apollo Theater & “Make It Funky” from the “Soul Classics” LP.
Coleman was born May 15, 1945 in Macon, G.A., and grew up in and around Macon during a time when the middle GA area was a hotbed of Blues, R&B, and early Rock ‘n Roll. His earliest musical influence was his stepfather, whom he remembers as a talented guitarist. As was often the case during the 1950s, Coleman’s introduction to playing in front of an audience came in the church but the guitar had a strong hold on Coleman by then. He continued to hone his guitar chops, playing with most of Macon’s prominent musicians of the day: Calvin Arline (Bobby Womack,Cher,Doug Kershaw,Jimmy Nalls Band), Newton Collier(Sam & Dave, others),Eddie Kirkland,Percy Welch, & others.
In 1964, Robert was picked by R&B legend Percy Sledge to play guitar in his touring band, a position he held through 1969. During this time Coleman toured extensively throughout North & South America, the Caribbean, & even Africa. In April of 1970, James Brown came to Macon looking for players for his backing band, the newly-founded JBs. From then till the end of ‘72, Coleman toured & recorded with Brown. His playing from this time is documented on three of Brown’s albums: “Hot Pants”, on which Coleman was solely responsible for the guitar groove on the title track; “Revolution of the Mind”, recorded live at the Apollo Theater in NYC; & the song “Make It Funky” from the “Soul Classics” LP.
Upon leaving Brown, Coleman returned to Macon & resumed playing clubs & other venues with the same musicians he played with in the early days. Then came the demise of Capricorn Records & Macon suddenly ceased to be “The Place” where R&B artists came to find their bands. Nevertheless, Coleman persevered, continuing to play with the best the area had to offer. Through most of the 1980’s Coleman played with organist Bobby O’Dea as a member of the house band at the Rookery, a downtown Macon institution, & toured with Larry Howard (Grinderswitch, Sanctified Blues). During the 1990s, Coleman frequently toured as a featured member of Big Mike & the Booty Papas.
Currently, Robert Lee Coleman continues to play with many local & regional artists- he still continues to tear the house down.