Zero to 180 – Three Minute Magic

Discoveries of a Pop Music Archaeologist

Blink And You Miss It — Nudie Recording Co.

Nudie Bows Own Label” reads the headline at the top of Billboard‘s “Country Music” section in the magazine’s May 12, 1973 edition.

LOS ANGELES — Nudie, who creates costumes for the leading recording artists in the world ranging from Elvis Presley to The Grateful Dead and almost every other country artist who’s ever plunked a guitar, is launching his own record label, Nudie Records. First release was produced by Cliffie Stone and features Nudie playing mandolin with such sideman as Tex Williams, Smokey Rogers, Roy Lanham, Dusty Rhodes, and Joe Carioca. Corky Mayberry, veteran country music air personality now with KFOX-AM here, is a partner in the new label.

The album will be called Nudie And His Mandolin. Shipments to radio stations nationwide should go out in a month.

Nudie has played the mandolin as a hobby for years and as a kid once appeared on stage at the Palace Theater in New York with Eddie Cantor, but got stage fright and didn’t play.

Nudie Recording Company

Inaugural (and farewell) release

While the Maddox Brothers and Rose (“the most colorful hillbilly band in the world“) may have been among the first country stars to outfit themselves with flashy western wear, notes Saving Country Music, Nutya Kotlyrenko — the Jewish Ukrainian refugee (born in Kyiv in 1902) who fled the violence of the early twentieth-century Russian pogroms at age 11 — is the American tailor “who took it from a fad to an art form that has withstood the test of time, and become the very image we associate with classic country today.” Saving Country Music also points out that while the rhinestones may have come from Germany, “the chain stitch embroidery style is distinctly Asian and Eastern in origin.”

Nudie And His Mandolin

Rear cover

Nudie And His Mandolin originally included a 10-page insert of Nudie photographed with a wide array of friends including (alphabetically speaking) Rex Allen, Ann-Margret, Bobby Austin, Gene Autry, Glen Campbell, David Cassidy, Julie Christy, Tony Curtis, Eddie Dean, Ned Doheny, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lorne Greene, Merv Griffin, Tom T. Hall, Goldie Hawn, Elton John, George Jones, Evil Knievel, Michael Landon, Lee Marvin, Dean Martin, Robert Mitchum, Harry Morgan, Rick Nelson, Doye O’Dell, Elvis Presley, Jim Reeves, Jeannie C. Riley, Marty Robbins, Roy Rogers, Smokey Rogers, “UncleAl Satherly, Hank Snow, Cliffie Stone, Merle Travis, John Wayne, Porter Wagoner, Tex Williams, Hank Williams, Jr., and Tammy Wynette.

Discogs contributor Mike Devich notes that Nudie And His Mandolin — The Nudie Recording Company’s sole release — “also exists on CD with no name of label, no number.”

Nudie in the News

Music Trade Literature = 1951-2019

(Click on hyperlinks below for full-text)

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Down Beat

Nov. 16, 1951

The Hollywood Beat” by Hal Holly

[Gene Autrey music director, Carl] Cotner says that with that format he’s going to give out with the “new sound in western swing,” and we believe him. But to thoroughly appreciate this new band, you have to see them in their handsomely tailored cowboys suits from Nudie’s (not a strip show, but a famous Hollywood costuming concern), and we’re pretty sure you will, for if anything is for TV, this is it.

Cash Box

Feb. 21, 1953

Folk and Western Roundup

Carolina Cotton (MGM) busy with her “Carolina Cotton Calling” series for Armed Forces Radio Service. Her first name guest on the show since returning from Korean tour was Bob Wills (MGM) who entered west coast during her absence. Wills and band were recently tailored in new wardrobe by Nudie the Rodeo Tailor. Current fashion has the band in blue suits trimmed in white with red and gray boots and white hats. Bob stands out in black suit with white trim.

Down Beat

May 6, 1953

Here’s What It Takes to Organize [a] Western Band” by Hank Thompson

Along with musicianship and showmanship, we try to present an organization that is very flashy and spectacular. Appearance does a lot to sell anything, and we feel that it even helps to sell music. We have gone to great lengths and expense to create a certain amount of color and glamour for our organization. So far, we have over $15,000 invested in western uniforms for the band, not including $25,000 invested in my own clothes. They are all tailored by the famous western tailor, Nudie of Hollywood.

Cash Box

Jul. 3, 1954

Folk and Western Notes From California

Leading stars of film, television, and Record industry recently appeared at a gathering in San Fernando Valley for a testimonial lunch and party for Nudie, the Western tailor, who designs costumes for the top-liners, Western film star and Decca recording artist, Rex Allen, assisted by Tex Williams and Roy Rogers arranged the historic event. Posing for the press and for fan magazine photogs for historic “Family portrait” were well-known stars Gene Autry, Rex Allen, Roy Rogers, Audie Williams, Don Diamond, Max Terhune, Smokey Rogers, Doye O’Dell, Jock O’Mahoney, Pat Buttrum, Eddie Dean, Joe Maphis, Art Rush, and Tim Spencer.

Cash Box

Feb. 22, 1958

Country Round Up

Nudie, the [R]odeo tailor of Hollywood, recently made his debut on records by playing the mandolin on Rex Allen’s recording of “Blue Light Waltz” for Decca Records.

Billboard

Jun. 9, 1958

Folk Talent & Tunes

Among those who dipped into the smorgasbord at the Bit of Sweden’s Viking Room, Los Angeles, recently to celebrate the birthday of Nat Nigberg‘s “Country America” (KABC-TV, Los Angeles), were Mr. and Mrs. Gene Autry, the Rex Allens, Tex Ritter, Johnny Bond, Sheb Wooley, Charlie Williams, Jay Stewart, Tex Williams, Candy Candido, Tony Martinez, Jesse White, Billy Strange, Ray Whitley, Charlie Aldrich, Marty Landau, and Nudie, the Western tailor. “Country America” personnel on hand to keep things running smoothly included director Don Whitman, assistant director Bob Sheldon, emcee Joe Allison, Lefty Frizzell, Freddy Hart, Ginny Jackson, Jerry Wallace, Debby Kay, Betsy Gay, and Bobby Bruce and members of his Hometown Band.

Music Business

Jun. 6, 1964

Dateline Music City” by Charlie Lamb

If there were any doubt that Hank Williams Jr. has hit the C&W pot of gold in a big way, his purchase of a Pontiac convertible, custom outfitted by no less a personage than Nudie, the Hollywood tailor, should dispel it. Nudie really went to town in equipping the monster. The gear shift is a western pistol, the fenders are topped with rifles, real silver dollars are embedded in the real saddle leather upholstered seats; there are other silver dollars, pistols and their holsters sprinkled around the interior as only Nudie can dream them.

Record World

Nov. 7, 1964

Cheatin’ Heart PicHank Williams’ Story

Of special interest in Your Cheatin’ Heart is the wardrobe which famous Western clothes-maker, Nudie, created for Hamilton. The suits are trimmed with cloth-of-gold and semi-precious stones, boots are trimmed with sterling silver, and the coats are made with the finest leather obtainable. All as Hank Williams himself would have insisted. And Nudie ought to know since he was the singer’s personal tailor. From Nudie, Hamilton picked up many pointers regarding Hank Williams’ stance, the way he held himself.

Music Business

Nov. 14, 1964

Your Cheatin’ HeartThe Story of the Great Hank Williams

George Hamilton’s show suits for the movie were made by
Nudie, Hank Williams’ personal suit maker

Jimmy Dean Show” – ABC TV

Jimmy Dean shows off all the special features of Nudie’s over-the-top customized convertible and then twirls for the camera in his brand-new Nudie suit:

Record World

Feb. 18, 1967

Biff Collie‘s “Country Music in Hollywood

Nudie The Rodeo Tailor must be the only one man in his profession who makes “personal appearances.” Nudie shows off his unique and Nudie-ized Pontiac which the company furnishes him for the “decorating.”

Billboard

Oct. 19, 1968

BakersfieldWestern Music’s Western Outpost = Pt. 1 & Pt. 2” by Arnold Shaw

Small wonder then that in recent years, many of the westerners have begun actively working to correct the balance sheet. While many of them are loyal members of the Country Music Association, with offices on Music City’s 16th Avenue South, they have established an Academy of Country and Western Music whose locus in Los Angeles. One of the members of the Academy Board, incidentally, is Nudie Cohn, a North Hollywood tailor who has for decades fashioned the elegant western outfits worn by Nashville performers. The Academy [founded 1964] has begun giving annual awards for Best Country Record, Best Country Duo, etc., and it will come as no surprise that westerners tend to carry off most of the prizes.

RPM Weekly

Jan. 27, 1969

Richard Robinson‘s “Pop Wire

Gram Parsons of The Flying Burrito Brothers, the new country and western group that also features ex-Byrd Chris Hillman, is presently sporting some zippy onstage outfits designed by West Coast western tailor Nudie. Gram’s favourite seems to be a jacket embroidered with flowering marijuana plants, amphetamine and LSD capsules, and female anatomy. Hillman’s garb is just as wild, especially one jacket embroidered with peacocks. The group had been asked to appear in the [sic] Stone’s TV spectacular but couldn’t get the proper working permits to do the gig.

Rolling Stone

Jun. 28, 1969

Don’t Give Me No Plastic Saddle, Hollywood” by Jerry Hopkins

(Custom outfits begin at $95 and run all the way up to $15,000)

Photo by Baron Wolman

In fact, one might describe this 66-year-old New York born [sic] custom tailor as the Rudi Gernreich of the “Grand Ole Opry” set. Gernreich introduced the topless bathing suit and Nudie has somehow managed to convince nearly 25 years of rough and rugged cowboy types they should buy blue boots studded with costume jewelry and suits of magenta elastique dripping with rhinestoned fringe. The difference is, Nudie’s customers wear what they buy in public.

Not only does Nudie claim to dress 80 per cent of all movie and television western stars (from Hopalong Cassidy to Lorne Green[e]), he also is reputed to control about three-quarters of the other tailor-made western clothing business in the U.S., outfitting Porter Wagoner, Jimmy Dean, Audie Murphy, Roy Rogers, and perhaps a hundred other stars, as well as thousands of reg’lar folks. All of which helps Nudie stuff an estimated $500,000 a year into his sequined saddle bags. For his excellence at art, Nudie was recently presented a special award by the Academy of Country and Western Music.

Note — Elsewhere in this same issue, John Grissim, Jr. – author of Country Music: White Man’s Blues – pens a piece entitled “California White Man’s S*it Kickin’ Blues” that is accompanied by Freddie Hart holding a pair of Nudie suits.

Cash Box

Jan. 30, 1971

Country Roundup

CBS-TV’s Roger Mudd is making a special news story on Hollywood’s noted tailor, “Nudie.”

Cash Box

Jun. 17, 1978

East Coastings/Points West

At another party/reception, given by Warner Bros. for Carlene Carter, regular patrons of the Yamashiro Restaurant, the site of the gathering, didn’t know what to think when famed western tailor “Nudie” showed up in his customized automobile with horns sounding out loud “moos” and “whinnies” as opposed to the usual dull honks.

Cash Box

Jul. 18, 1981

KLAC Sponsors Cowboy Day

Cowboys have always been some of America’s favorite heroes, and recently some of the legendary ones gathered together in North Hollywood to salute one of their favorite people — Nudie, western tailor to the stars. KLAC/Los Angeles sponsored the three-hour western jam and tall tale session, with DJ Sammy Jackson broadcasting live from Nudie’s shop. Cowboys participating in the show included Roy Rogers, Rex Allen, Eddie Dean, Jimmy Wakely, Tex Williams, Doye O’Dell and Charlie Hodge. Pictured swapping a few tall tales are (L to R) Nudie, Sammy Jackson & Rex Allen.

Billboard

May 19, 1984

Lifelines – Deaths

Nudie Cohn, 82, of natural causes May 9 in Los Angeles. Cohn designed clothes for several country music stars since 1947, when he created Hank Williams’ first rhinestone outfit. He recorded an album entitled Nudie And His Mandolin in the mid-1970s for his own label. Cohn worked out of Nudie’s tailor shop in North Hollywood, which will be maintained by his wife Bobby and his daughter Barbara.

R&R

Oct. 16, 1998

Talking to a Busy Hillbilly

Marty Stuart Discusses Album Projects & His Role As a Country Collector” by Calvin Gilbert

“In the early ’80s, when I started trying to make records, I started buying old rhinestone suits that (the late Hollywood tailor) Nudie made that everyone else was ashamed to wear,” Stuart says. “It was just an old lick that I reused. The collection started snowballing, and I really don’t know when the craziness started, but all of a sudden I didn’t have to ask anybody for items. They found me. Then it got completely nuts.”

Stuart’s collection, which is now stored in five warehouses, may eventually be displayed in a special area of the new Country Music Hall of Fame building planned for downtown Nashville. Stuart isn’t exactly sure how much the collection is worth. Although he admits that he’s received a “solid offer” of $2.5 million for the items, he’ll probably never sell.

He purchased most of the Hank Williams items from the singer’s sister, Irene, who had expressed an interest in meeting Stuart during a conversation with the owner of The Great Escape [who once sold Zero to 180 a highly sought-after out-of-print Edgar Meyer title over the phone for a righteous price] a used record and book dealer in Nashville.

Billboard

Mar. 18, 2000

Country Hall of Famer Pee Wee King Dies at 86” by Chet Flippo

Known for his flashy style, King was the first Grand Ole Opry member to wear the rhinestone and sequined suits fashioned by Hollywood tailor Nudie. He joined the Opry in 1937 and was a pioneer on the show for his use of electric instruments, drums, and horns in his band.

Billboard

Apr. 30, 2016

The Rhinestone Cowboy Rides Again” = Pt. 1 + Pt. 2

Though Cohn’s family closed its North Hollywood store in 1994, more than 30 years after he died, his influence resurfaced on the spring and pre-fall runways at Gucci, Valentino, Fausto Puglisi, and in collections from fast-fashion retailers like Nasty Gal. For Jamie Nudie, 54, granddaughter of the designer who changed her last name to honor his legacy, the look’s revival comes with the relaunch of the family’s tailoring biz, which she runs with partner Mary Lynn Cabrall, 56.

Question to Ponder

Record World‘s coverage of the (West Coast-based) Academy of Country and Western Music Awards in its May 10, 1969 edition mentions the fact that “[the] Academy’s new Director’s Award was presented to Nudie the Rodeo Tailor.”

Q = Given the great reverence in which Nudie Cohn is held by both the music and film industry, why is the Country Music Association still waiting to induct the great clothier into the Country Music Hall of Fame?

LINK to The Official Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors Website

Suggested Reading

Rachel Tashjian‘s “The Battle For the Heart of the Great American Nudie Suit

Published in the April 19, 2019 edition of GQ

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LINK to “Blink And You Miss ItZapple Records

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