NUDIE COHN | RHINESTONE COWBOY

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The Legendary Country Western tailor to the stars — Nudie Cohn.

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Circa 1970’s, Los Angeles, CA– Hands of Nudie Cohn the Rodeo Tailor  –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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Nudie suits have been worn by just about everyone who is anyone in the world of Country/Rock music. Simply put, he made Country cool with his one-off original creations that bedazzled a long list of diverse celebs– John Wayne, Gene Autry, George Jones, Elvis, Cher, John Lennon, Ronald Reagan, Elton John, Robert Mitchum, Pat Buttram, Tony Curtis, Michael Landon, Glenn Campbell, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Hank Williams Sr., and groups such as, America, Chicago, ZZ top, and the Flying Burrito Bros (Gram Parsons’ “Gilded Palace of Sin” suit is considered the Sistine Chapel of Nudies).  To own a Nudie is to own something special; collected by fashion and music hounds alike– Dwight Yoakam, Ben Harper, Lenny Kravitz, Perry Farrell, Jeff Tweedy, and other A-list Rockers of today keep the Nudie flame burning, and even inspired a few of them to create their own line of signature clothing.

The man behind the amazing rhinestone-studded, hand-embroidered suits was none other than Mr. Nudie Cohn– arguably, the larger-than-life 5-foot-7 Russian Rhinestone Cowboy is the most influential and innovative fashion designer and tailor to ever bless the world of Country music.  And he couldn’t stop at clothing– he put his Midas Touch on everything around him– especially his customized fleet of Nudie-fied GM cruisers that he used to promote his LA based Nudies Rodeo Tailors shop on Lankershim Blvd.  Of the original 18 cars, the whereabouts of only 9 are known today.

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Circa 1970’s, Los Angeles, CA– Nudie costomized each of his many cadillacs, protecting his work with plastic. This one is decorated with silver dollar coins and 14 various guns. –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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Pontiac Bonnevilles were the car of choice, Mr. Cuevas said, partly because they were among the longest cars on the road. “We took the seats out and did the upholstery in hand tooled leather,” he said. “We put guns and bullets and silver dollars all over it.”

Mr. Cuevas recalled that guns were cheap and easy to buy in Los Angeles. The Winchesters, Colts and derringers were sent to be plugged and silver-plated. When returned, the guns were holstered or became gearshifts and door handles. Silver dollars were strategically added.

“I thought it was fantastic,” Mr. Cuevas said. “The more things we had to hang on the car, the better.”

–Via The New York Times

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Circa 1970s, Los Angeles, California– Nudie costomized each of his many Cadillacs, protecting his work with plastic. This one is decorated with guns & silver dollar coins. –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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In the early 1960s, for promotional purposes, Cohn began receiving a free Pontiac every year. Typically, he’d drive the cars for a while and then sell them or give them away. While Mr. Cuevas said he recalled a few going out the door at prices up to $35,000, Nudie gave his ’63 Bonneville (adorned with more than 100 valuable coins, including Morgan silver dollars) to his friend Roy Rogers.

 

Today, that car is hooked to a Nudie-customized covered-wagon trailer in the Roy Rogers museum in Branson, Mo., not far from Trigger, the world’s most famous stuffed horse. Dave Koch, a museum spokesman, said Rogers drove the car regularly near his Apple Valley, Calif., home, until souvenir hunters began prying off coins.

“It was such a long vehicle with that extended rear bumper, that it was very difficult to drive on hills,” Mr. Koch said. “You had to enter driveways at a major angle.”

–Via The New York Times, read more here

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Circa 1970s, Los Angeles, California– Nudie the Rodeo Tailor with photographs of the many stars and their suits he’s made over the years –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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May 26th, 1973, Los Angeles, California– Nudie Cohn, George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Nudie Cohn outfitted many Country & Western stars in custom suits & shirts. — Image by © Michael Ochs Archives

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Circa 1970s, Los Angeles, CA– Merle Haggard choosing fabric for a new Nudie suit. –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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Circa 1970s, Los Angeles, California– Nudie the Rodeo Tailor in his Shop –Image by © Jeff Albertson

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Alright, I get it.  How can you NOT have color pics of something as beautiful and COLORFUL as a Nudie suit–

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Nudie Cohn  –photo by Mike Salisbury via

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(Right) Nudie Cohn– The Man, The Suit, The Legend.  (Left) Gram Parsons and Nudie Cohn.

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Nudie Cohn, in a glorious Nudie suit, atop a Nudie customized cruiser = Nudie Heaven.

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Gram Parsons in the infamous “Gilded Palace of Sin” Nudie Suit.

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Nudie Cohn and Gram Parsons.  Gram was visiting Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors workshop.

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17 thoughts on “NUDIE COHN | RHINESTONE COWBOY

  1. george and merle.. some of the best, I kinda wish these pics were in color-i can imagine how colorful they’d be-but, I guess it helps me to use my imagination in my old age.

  2. I had the pleasure of meeting Nudie at his store on Lankershim. You knew you were at the right place when you saw the life scale brown horse on the roof!
    Nudie was a charmer, the last of a rare breed of artisans. I actually sat in his coined “HOG” that had a prized parking spot in the back of the store. The staff were like a family and if you walked through the glass doors you were treated like a member of the family. I still wear the spurs that I bought back in the day!
    Your post brings back memories, thank you!

  3. The Nudie suit, sans shirt, is a look only a serious star could pull off, Gram Parsons and Robert Plant come to mind. Well done JP.

  4. Never heard of Nudie, but Loy Allen Bowlin was truly the original Rhinestone cowboy. Just wrote a piece about him the other day.

    • Never heard of Nudie? Bowlin was good, no doubt about it. More of a true folk artist than Nudie. Nudie was a true tailor and designer. Rhinestones they shared in common, but the two are like apples and oranges.

      You can tell whom I prefer, surely.

      JP

  5. First time poster, not first time viewer….

    Great post, loved the photography, and the amazing suits and designs.

    I know a request for something might be a little early, but maybe something with folk music of the 60’s or Dylans transition from Folk to Rock?

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  8. JP,
    I remember being back stage with Chris Isaac while he was our spokesperson at Hart Schaffner Marx. He had these ornate suits that his manager insisted he wear and they came from a “famous tailor in BH.” Is there someone doing this now that is keeping Nudie’s flame burning?
    See ya this afternoon.
    EJ

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