Sparkle & Twang: A Celebration of Nudie & Manuel (click here to read the entire story)
Here’s another fun little thing I did while in Nashville last month.
(there’s another Nashville adventure a few stories down about those heavenly biscuits that are served at the one and only Loveless Cafe)
The Tennessee State Museum has a great exhibit going right now called “Sparkle and Twang” that showcases (well….there aren’t really any showcases…I’ll get into THAT later) the history, talent and couture of Nudie and Manuel. There were some wonderful suits on display there and ALL of it belongs to Country Music star Marty Stuart!One of the first things that caught my eye at the begining of the exhibit was this huge picture below that took up a good portion of the wall. In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past 50 years, this- Ladies and Gentlemen is Ms. PATSY CLINE. No further explanation required. (Never mind all the lines and scratches, they are intended- i guess thats why they can call it “art”.)
There was a cool sweater that belonged to Elvis that I meant to take a picture of but I was so amazed at one particular thing that I hadn’t even thought about taking my camera out yet. That thing? The fact that 99% of everything there on display was not behind glass, protected or guarded in any manor. Thats right kids, Elvis’ sweater (which also featured a picture of him wearing the exact item) was just there…next to that pic- on a wire hanger….just hanging there. Oh, I saw a couple of little “please do not touch” signs sprinkled here and there around a few of the items. But you mean to tell me that nobody would ever go up there and strum those guitar strings on a vintage Stratacastor worth several thousand dollars?
I mean- most people have enough sense to respect property, especially in a museum setting (I would think) but who’s gonna stop someone from picking up a pair of Dottie West’s beautiful shoes that were covered (and I mean COVERED, like smothered and covered at the Waffle House) with hundreds of custom inlaid rhinestone shoes? Stuff from many of County Music’s finest entertainers were there on display for the world to see…and touch. I appreciate Marty Stuart sharing his collection but there’s gotta be a better way to protect these National Treasures. One idea might be to hang everything like in the picture below… at least some snot nose kid couldn’t get his grubby little hands on them. Aside from that- everything else was cool.
This picture is of a huge wagon wheel looking thing that hung from the ceiling. I believe many of these were Marty’s personal stage costumes. Nice that he put those just out of reach….I’m not knocking him, I just can’t believe so much stuff was just right out there. (OK, I’ll stop now) This really was one of my favorite parts of the Sparkle and Twang exhibit. I’m a sucker for gawdy stage wear. No matter what your mother told you- there is no such thing as “Too many rhinestones”.
Hell- even Johnny Cash had ’em! So- that alone makes rhinestones cool. Here’s a picture of the suit that started it all for the “Man in Black”. This was his first BLACK stage outfit- with rhinestones.
(For the youngsters- that’s Cash in the middle)
I didn’t realize just how tall Johnny Cash was until I was able to stand next this suit in the picture below. I mean, RIGHT up next to it! Oh sure, there were a few “security guards” there and they’d take turns changing seats in a few sections of the exhibit….but I could outrun all of them if I had to. Not that I was casing the joint- but I didn’t see any security cameras. Hey, if someone can bust in and steal a pair of the Ruby Slippers from the Judy Garland Museum with cameras and an alarm….
(Those shoes are insured for a million and a half by the way- and they also have rhinestones on the bows.)
Hello- I’m Johnny Cash’s suit.
Alright… best for last. The REAL reason I wanted to go find this place was to take a gander at the Patsy Cline display. I kinda like her…more on that later (maybe). Anyway- Marty’s got a dress that once belonged to Patsy in his display. Also featured in that section is an autographed picture of her and a letter she wrote to Nudie requesting a couple dresses that she wanted custom made. The picture below shows Patsy wearing the actual dress while standing next to another country singer- (and future sausage king) Jimmy Dean.
Here’s the dress as it is on display for the Sparkle and Twang exhibit along with an autographed publicity photo…and somebody’s boots.
(more art in the background)
Now, you’ve gotta understand that once Patsy’s recording style became part of the more sophisticated “Nashville Sound” (Thank you Owen Bradley) she eventually changed her stage costumes to reflect her new found success and style. Gone where those gorgeous western dresses she had worn earlier in her career. Her mother- Ms. Hilda Hensley was no longer sitting infront of the sewing machine attaching leather fringe and felt steer heads on to her daughters dresses. Instead, she would create fine, hand sewn (with love) lace over silk dresses in several different designs and colors that would reflect Patsy’s new style as well as showcase her hourglass figure.
Patsy prepared for her appearance at the Mint Casino (in Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada) by purchasing a few costumes that were to be worn especially for that gig and were even more uptown than the dresses her mother was creating for her. One in particular was a black, figure enhancing dress COVERED in black sequence. As her songs began to cross over into the pop charts and the venue’s she was playing were no longer just Honky Tonks- she decided to make use of a designer that wasn’t just uptown…he was “Hollywood”.
“Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors” was THE spot to have country couture made. In the 60’s, if you wanted to walk out on stage and sparkle (literally) you went to Nudie’s in North Hollywood. Patsy, being so heavily in demand with personal appearances and also taking time out to raise her family- wasn’t able to get Nudie’s in sunny, Southern California for a custom fitting. So she did the next best thing-
On February 28, 1963 she sat down and wrote Nudie a letter (while visions of rhinestones danced through her head). Here’s the envelope-
Patsy (in a very detailed letter and description of the dresses) sketched out two dresses she had designed and wanted him to make. One white, one blue…both with rhinestones. (see?) Oh, and she also wanted a silver cape lined with red satin inside. (hot)
As I mentioned earlier, the letter was dated February 28, 1963. A few days later she did a benefit show for a disk jockey that had been killed in a car accident and several Grand Ole Opry stars performed (on March 3, 1963) and all proceeds were donated to the family of the late “Cactus” Jack Call. In the days following the benefit concert, bad weather prevented Patsy Cline, her manager and pilot Randy Hughes, along with fellow Opry Stars- Cowboy Copus and Hawkshaw Hawkins from flying back to Nashville at the scheduled time in Randy’s private plane. Eventually, they were able to depart Kansas City and head back home to their families. Sadly, On March 5, 1963- these four individuals who had just given so much to help someone else in need, never made it back to Nashville.
The letter below was received March 6, 1963- one day after the plane accident that took the lives of four members of the Country Music Family.
You should be able to click on the pages below and enlarge them to see everything (including the sketches) in greater detail. I’ve also typed out the letter directly from Patsy’s handwriting below these pictures.
From: Patsy Cline-815 Nella Drive-Goodlettesville TN
To: Nudie’s Rodeo Tailors-11000 Victory Blvd-North Hollywood CA
Dear Mr. Nudie- I have put on paper a picture of two dresses I’d like you to make for me if you can and hope you can understand how I want them made. My measurements are to the very inch on the corner of the paper. Let me know if you can make these and how much each will cost and I’ll send you a check right away. And how long will it take you to make them? I would also like a silver cape made to throw around my shoulders to cover my costumes before and after performances. I’ve made a drawing of that too. I don’t want leather in the cape. I’d rather have a silver material and have it lined with red satin inside.
I would like the one dress in white with rhinestones and the belt in silver leather with rhinestones on it. I’d like the top with three quarter length sleeves and the shirt in a sky blue material and rhinestones on the cuffs, collar, belt and heavy on the bottom of the skirt and sprinkled lightly going up to the waist. I’d like the belts on both dresses to fasten with big hooks instead of buckles on the back.
Measurements: Bust 34 D, Waist 25 inches, Hips 38 inches
Shoulders: 14 1/2 inches across- 3/4 sleeves, 12 1/2 inches- skirt length 27 1/2 inches.
Thank you- Patsy Cline
(These drawings are VERY detailed and sketched out perfectly)
Hope you enjoyed your Country Music lesson for today….more to follow!
Special thanks to Miguel and his magician skills with all the uploading, cropping, color correcting and fixing my sideways pictures- and everything else he complained about- in order for me to share these photos. (I made him do them over and over and over…and over again, until they met my standards….just ask him, he’ll tell ya!)