Beloved Nashville-based clothing designer Manuel wasn’t the first to dress country stars in colorful rhinestone outfits. That designation belongs to Hollywood stylist Nudie Cohn, who added dazzle and sparkle to the look of such early giants as Hank Williams, Sr., Tex Williams and Porter Wagoner.
The newly-opened Nudie’s Honky Tonk, named in honor of Cohn, is the latest country-themed bar to join the ever-bustling downtown Nashville scene. The three-story venue aims to provide a complete music/lifestyle experience, with three performing stages, multiple bars and Southern-style comfort food.
On Nov. 30th, the venue’s owner Bill Miller, also the founder of the Johnny Cash Museum in Nashville, welcomed members of the media for an up-close preview of Nudie’s Honky Tonk. Miller pointed to Cohn’s special place in the history of country music, noting that the rhinestone cowboy look truly began with Cohn’s imagination and flair for fashion. “We are honoring the architects of real country music,” Miller said. “We’re proud to bring country music history to downtown Nashville.”
Manuel served as Cohn’s prize pupil and has since become an in-demand stylist to the stars after moving his own operation to Nashville. But now it’s time to celebrate the teacher, the master artisan who originated the rhinestone look.
In his own unique way, Cohn helped create a country music culture that blended Hollywood glitz with down home dance hall entertainment. Cohn later expanded his design empire beyond the country boundaries, fashioning clothes for Elvis Presley, Elton John and the actor Robert Redford, among others.
Like its namesake’s creations, the space offers an array of eye-catching visual delights. Patrons will immediately take note of the bar that sprawls to about one-third of a football field and Cohn’s 1975 Cadillac El Dorado nestled against a wall and towering over the main floor, seemingly defying every law of physics.
But Nudie’s (not a strip club, despite the somewhat tantalizing moniker) is also serving up a slice of honky tonk history. Donning the walls of Nudie’s Honky Tonk are several of Cohn’s flamboyant outfits resting inside frames, mainly vintage suits worn by Johnny Cash and other celebrities.
One notable item of interest is a shirt that Cohn designed for Hank Williams, Sr. in the late 1940’s. In between throwing down tequila shots and singing along to the live entertainment, patrons can gaze at these amazing artifacts along with vintage concert posters and rare instruments, including one of Merle Travis’ guitars. In addition, a Nudie’s Shop on the main floor sells a variety of Cohn-inspired shirts and other garments for the full Nudie’s experience.
Nudie’s Honky Tonk is located at 409 Broadway in the heart of downtown Nashville.