This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
In spite of what the title might suggest, this isn't a column about getting your gear off. In fact, it's the exact opposite. Today we're featuring performers who wear (or wore) outfits created by the tailor NUDIE COHN (or Nuta Kotlyarenko, as his mum and dad knew him).
These tend to be country artists in the main but others have been known to wear his creations as well.
I first noticed Nudie's outfits on Duncan Renaldo as the Cisco Kid on TV. I wouldn't have known at the time that that's what they were. You might also remember the outrageous costumes Robert Redford wore in the film The Electric Horseman.
I became aware of the name Nudie Suits when the FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS wore them on the cover of their first album.
The initial Burritos were the great Chris Hillman, the tragic Gram Parsons, Sneaky Pete Kleinow and Chris Ethridge. All of them had at one stage or another been members of The Byrds.
That first incarnation of the group didn't last long but the band has kept going over the years with dozens of members. You can't beat the original, though, and here they are with Wheels.
It was probably the influence of the Burrito's album cover that got some rock musicians into wearing Nudie's creations. One who surprised me, one I didn't realize had worn the garments, is Jerry Garcia, who was the main man for the GRATEFUL DEAD.
It must be said that that was a very short term phase for Jerry.
The Dead did their best work as a live band and only three or four of their albums are really worth more than a single listen. One that was is "American Beauty" from which the song Ripple is taken.
One of the earliest to wear a Nudie Suit was PORTER WAGONER.
Nudie made one for Porter for free figuring it would be a good investment for the long term. And so it proved.
Porter bought dozens over the years and his style influenced many others to buy them as well. One of the long term musical relationships Porter had was with DOLLY PARTON.
Porter brought Dolly on to his TV program when she was still an unknown struggling artist. They performed together off and on for about eight years. Here is one of their duets, Afraid to Love Again.
MARTY ROBBINS really liked the suits as well. Indeed, when I caught his act he was resplendent in a vivid green number.
His show was probably the most entertaining I've ever attended. Besides being a great entertainer, he was a fine singer and wrote some terrific songs – El Paso was one he wrote.
In the same vein as that one, here is another of his called San Angelo.
Nudie was responsible for the costumes ELVIS wore in his later performing days – those white (and other colored) outfits he wore mostly in Las Vegas, but other places as well.
However, he was also responsible for perhaps the most iconic outfit in rock history, the famous gold lamé suit that graced the cover of Elvis's second greatest hits album.
It wasn't made for that album; it saw light of day nearly three years earlier and Elvis wore it in performance a few times until he realized there were more comfortable outfits.
With that suit it seems only appropriate that we have a song from the album, I Need Your Love Tonight.
For a complete change of pace we have ROY ROGERS.
Checking out his films, it seems to me that Roy rather liked the flamboyant outfits. It's a good thing Nudie came along when he did.
Here Roy sings The Cowboy Night Herd Song. This will either bring a smile to your face or shock you such that you won't want to continue with the column.
HANK WILLIAMS had an early example and it's distinctive.
Whenever I feature Hank, it's a problem choosing a song to play, there are so many that would work. It's usually a matter of what I feel like on the day. Today I feel like Half as Much.
Another surprise for me was seeing MICHAEL NESMITH in a Nudie Suit, peacocks and all.
This is from his country rock period. The song Rio was from later on.
More surprises. That's one of the benefits of doing this column. It seems that DWIGHT YOAKAM had appeared in a couple of dozen films, and not just playing a country singer either. I didn't know that.
I suppose I should. Often when someone is talented in one area they are pretty good at something else and Dwight is a very talented singer and songwriter indeed.
See if you agree with me. Here is Buenas Noches From A Lonely Room (She Wore Red Dresses). I think he listened to Marty Robbins over the years. (Well, who wouldn't?)
I mentioned GRAM PARSONS early on and here he is when he went out as a solo artist. In the photo he seems to be having the suit fitted at Nudie's that he used in the Burritos era.
We owe Gram a great debt for introducing EMMYLOU HARRIS to the world.
Emmy sang harmony on Gram's two solo albums. Here they are with In My Hour of Darkness.