A Touch of Gold Lamé (Elvis and Nudie Cohn)
By Bob Pakes
From Hank Williams to Johnny Cash. From Bill Haley to John Lennon. And from Pablo Picasso to President Ronald Reagan. Everybody who was somebody (and also every nobody who wanted to be a somebody), seemed to wear a Nudie outfit!
“It’s better to be looked over than overlooked”
Nudie Cohn: the man behind the Gold Suit
In this article we’ll take a look at the impact of Elvis’ gold suit. We will do so by chronicalizing the connection between Nudie Cohn and Elvis Presley through the years. The photos that exist of the two, and the clothes Nudie designed for Elvis, will guide us through their unique collaboration.
Please visit Alan Hanson‘s excellent blog for a very informative article about the history of ELVIS’ GOLD SUIT
In the photo below we see Elvis meeting Nudie Cohn. Countrysinger Tex Williams is the man in the middle. The image to the left was taken during the same meeting and shows Elvis with Nudie’s daughter Barbara Cohn.
Elvis Presley in the company of recording artists who are dressed in a Nudie Cohn creation.
From left to right:
(December 21, 1957)
(December 21, 1957)
Here we have a letter from Nudie Cohn to Tom Parker. This letter is a request for Elvis’ measurements as Nudie was preparing Elvis’ wardrobe for the upcoming movie Loving You.
Coincidentally, the letter is dated December 4, 1956, the same day the historical Million Dollar Quartet took place at Sun Studios in Memphis.
Noticable is also how Nudie addresses Parker:
“COL SNOW PARKER
ELVIS PRESLEY SKY ROCKETIER”
“Col Snow Parker” is a reference to Parker’s Snowman’s League of America, while Nudie’s second remark leaves no doubt that, in Nudie’s believe, Parker was responsible for skyrocketing Elvis’ career.
Old pals, Nudie Cohn and Tom Parker, in 1965.
Nudie’s second creation for Elvis was the famous cowboy outfit from Loving You. Filming started in the middle of January 1957, so we can assume that Nudie delivered the outfit to Paramount somewhere in late December 1956 or early January 1957.
Here we have a pair of back-up pants from the Cowboy Outfit. They were not actually worn by Elvis in the movie, yet they fetched a little over $20.000 in auction in 2010. Apparently, the original outfit is in the hands of a private collector. It’s one of those very famous Elvis items that has never actually been seen by the public. The photo below shows Elvis Presley’s name on the Nudie label, as well as the Paramount Studios stamp.
Before Elvis’ gold suit was projectiled to it’s eventual iconic status with the release of Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 2 in 1959, there was the Loving You / Teddy Bear single, released in June of 1957.
Apart from the truckload of photos that were taken during the live gigs in 1957 when Elvis either wore the complete suit or only parts of it, only 1 other photo seems to exist. In this photo, Elvis is proudly posing in his new set of clothes in front of the fireplace at Audubon Drive.
The image below is of a lower resolution, but it’s also much less cropped.
Sure, the gold suit is unique and legendary, and the Teddy Bear outfit is pretty flashy. But the coolest piece of clothing Nudie designed for Elvis has to be this black leather jacket. Elvis often wore it when he went horseriding at Graceland and the jacket can be seen in many of the candids from early 1968.
When it appeared in auction in 2009, it became evident that Elvis really must have liked this jacket a lot since it showed plenty of wear, but it fetched $11.500 nonetheless.
1957 | Elvis Presley Enterprises
This Promotional Photo is the earliest piece of merchandise that featured Elvis in his gold suit. It was produced in two sizes: 8 x 10, and 11 x 14 inch.
The photo chosen, out of the (at least) 7 different poses, would become the standard and most recognized gold suit image. With the exception of only 1 or 2 occasions, this specific photo will grace all feature promotional and commercial products.
1956 was the year that a giant wave of Elvis Presley Enterprises merchandise flooded America. Only one such item pictured Elvis in his gold suit, which may seem like a missed opportunity at first. But on the other hand, by 1957 the flood had dried up quite a bit and hardly any new items were produced by this time.
1959 | RCA Victor
A Touch Of Gold, Volume I (April 1959)
A Touch Of Gold, Volume II (September 1959)
A Touch Of Gold, Volume 3 (February 1960)
The first time the gold suit was used on a Presley record, was on Volume I of the Touch Of Gold trilogy.
For Volume I, RCA chose the most striking photo from the Gold Suit Photoshoot. For Volume II, 2 different photos were chosen, which seems logical since enough different poses were at hand. But for the 3rd Volume in the series, RCA returned to the already used image from Volume I. Why?
It’s interesting to realise that in between the release dates of Volume II and Volume 3, 50.000.000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong was released, and this album of course also featured the same photo.
1959 | RCA Victor
Well, here we have it, 50.000.000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong – Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2, one of the most iconic record covers ever.
Although a photoshoot was done in May of 1959 in Germany, RCA chose a 2,5 year old photo of Elvis to grace the cover of this album in November 1959. And this turned out to be an excellent decision.
1961 | Elvis Presley / RCA Victor
After the release of the smashing Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2 album in 1959, the image of Elvis in his Gold Suit had instantly become one of the most iconic and easily recognized photos of any artist ever. So it makes sense that Elvis’ management chose to use this image for the promotion of the Charity Shows in 1961.
The image on the Handbill to the right is of course reversed.
The photo below is from the March 25, 1961 Press Conference, and on the table we can see the handbill that is shown here.
1963 | RCA Victor
Here we have a page from the Picture Folio that was given away for free with the purchase of the Elvis’ Golden Records, Volume 3 album.
For the second (and also last) time a different than usual image was used for this ad. This photo was first seen on the cover of the A Touch Of Gold, Volume II EP (the left image).
1968 | NBC / RCA Victor
From the November 30, 1968 issue of Billboard magazine, comes this Fullpage Ad.
Just like was done in 1961, one of the most easily recognized images of all time was chosen to promote the Elvis Presley product. But by this time the image was already over 11 years old.
The soundtrack for the upcoming TV Special is being advertised here, as well as the TV Premiere of the NBC Special itself on December 3rd.And with the month of December coming up, RCA took full advantage of Elvis’ careerboost by advertising the rest of their Presley catalog with special attention for Elvis’ Christmas and Gospel releases.
“Give Elvis’ records for Christmas”
1968 | NBC / Singer
Here we have the Promotional Booklet for the NBC TV Special.
Even though a photoshoot had been done as recent as June of 1968, the image chosen for the frontcover of the Booklet was yet again the most wellknown (but reversed) image of Elvis Presley instead of the ‘new Elvis’.
1968 | RCA Victor
From 1968, a Tabletop Standee that was used to promote the NBC Show in record shops.
These standees were made out of heavy cardboard, and they are extremely rare nowadays because only a small amount were produced and more often than not thrown away by the store owner after a while.
This specific standee has to be rarest of them all since it is personally signed by Elvis.
1969 | RCA Victor
Printed in 1968, also next year’s Pocket Calender featured the well known Golden Boy.
THE GOLD SUIT DISCOGRAPHY
USA | EPA-5088 | A Touch Of Gold, Volume I
The very first time the gold suit appeared on a record cover!
This EP was released in all major countries such as Germany, Italy, Australia, Canada and the UK.
Has anybody ever noticed the size of Elvis’ righthand thumb?
Argentina | AVE-318 | El Incomparable
This nice release from Argentina featured the same artwork and the same songs as the US EP. But it came with a different title.
Japan | SS-1156 | A Big Hunk O’ Love / My Wish Came True
You can always count on the Japanese when it comes to unique covers. The cover chosen for this single is no exception.
South-Africa | EPC-048 | A Touch Of Gold
RCA South-Africa kept the songs and most of the artwork in tact, but they omitted the ‘Volume 1’ subtitle.
South-Africa | EPC-050 | Another Touch Of Gold
This follow-up release to South-Africa’s A Touch Of Gold EP actually features the songs of Volume 3 of the original US series.
South-Africa | EPC-058 | All Shook Up
The most noticable thing about this EP is that the titlesong was already present on Another Touch Of Gold.
USA | EPA-5101 | A Touch Of Gold, Volume II
The second Volume in the series, also released in Germany, Italy and the UK.
Japan | SCP-1242 | Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
Japan was the only major country that did not release the A Touch Of Gold EP series. They did eventually release Volume 2 in the 33 RPM format, but this was not until 1965. The title of this EP was changed to Wear My Ring Around Your Neck.
USA | EPA-5141 | A Touch Of Gold, Volume 3
The final Volume in the EP trilogy. Also released in Germany, Italy and the UK.
Japan | HP-504 | Elvis’ Golden Record
Only one year after their release of the Elvis’ Golden Records LP, RCA Japan released the quite similarly titled Elvis’ Golden Record. This 10″ LP consists of 8 out of the 10 songs on LPM-2075 (omitting Don’t and I Beg Of You).
USA | LPM-2075 | 50.000.000 Elvis Fans Can’t Be Wrong
– Elvis’ Gold Records, Volume 2
One of the most iconic and easily recognized album covers by any artist ever: Elvis’ second Golden Records LP, released in 1959.
Spain | 3L10162 | Gold Records
To the right we see the Spanish pressing of LPM-2075, for which a different title was chosen.
Mexico | MKE-267 | Gold Records
RCA Mexico used the exact same cover and title as the Spanish LP. However, this is not a full album but a 4 track EP.
Uruguay | LPM-2075 | Los Discos De Oro De Presley
– 100.000.000 De Admiradores No Pueden Estar Equivocados
This LP has a different lay-out and the amount of fans that can’t be wrong has miraculously doubled from 50.000.00 to 100.000.000!
Japan | SS-1665 | Money Honey / One Sided Love Affair
A nice 45 from the land of the rising sun.
USA | SP 45-76 | Don’t / Wear My Ring Around Your Neck
We end the GOLD SUIT DISCOGRAPHY with an ultra rare 2-track single that was released in promotion of LPM-2017.
The cover-art of this 45, shows a black/white image of LPM-2075. But instead of a white background, this album has a black background. It is possible that RCA’s Art Department at one point considered a black background for this Presley album.
To Dennis Berry for helping out with a scan of the page from the 1963 Picture Folio. And to Joe Spera and Geert Hof for correctly dating the 1968 Tabletop Standee.
Visit Nudie’s official website at NUDIE’S RODEO TAILOR
For a huge collection of ‘Nudie-style’ celebrities, go to NUDIE SUITS
Nudie’s grandaughter, JAMIE LEE COHN, has published the book about her famous grandfather that is shown here to the right.
ON THE ROAD with the Gold Suit … SOON ON ECHOES!