When I think of country music, I think of bright lights at a flashy Nashville show and equally dazzling western suites. While the great country artists of old like Hank Williams and Johnny Cash were all known to don expertly tailored and sparkling suits, one suit comes to mind when I think of the evolution of Country Music and its transformation to mainstream rock and roll. Gram Parsons’ notorious Nudie Suit was more than just a suit. It was a visual representation of Parsons’ attitude towards country and his work leading country music towards mainstream rock and roll.
The Nudie Suit, designed by Hollywood celebrity tailor Nudie Cohn, made its debut on the cover Parson’s and the Flying Burrito Brothers 1969 album “The Gilded Palace of Sin.” The suit was a nod to old country routes through the cross featured on the back but also turned a cheek against old country values through the embellishments of marijuana leaves and opioid inspired poppy flowers throughout the outfit. The suit was hand stitched by Cohn himself as his head embroiderer, Rose Clements, refused to sew naked women and drugs.
As if foreshadowed by the infamous suit, Parsons experienced hardship throughout his professional career. Frequently battling his addiction to drugs and alcohol Parsons succumbed to his vices in 1973. Passing in Joshua Tree, California, Parsons overdosed following in the footsteps of both of his addict parents.
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