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  • Uncle Dave Griffin

Tail of the Weak 1.4

Updated: Jan 24, 2020

Tail of the Weak is a series of insights and musical memories from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin, singer/songwriter and founder of the Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival, from Waycross, Georgia.

“You know that Gram Parsons virtually created country-rock when he inspired the Rolling Stones to record “Wild Horses” in 1971? Without the man that wore that jacket—the jacket that I'm going to get—you got no Eagles—no Kenny Chesney—no Tim McGraw—and country? Country stays traditional—and Taylor Swift is working at Tom's instead of being out in space.” - Bill (Luke Wilson), Roadies: “Friends and Family” Season 1, Episode 5, Showtime

The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1969
The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1969

Nutya Kotlyrenko was born in Kiev, Ukraine on December 15, 1902, to a Ukrainian Jewish family. When he turned 11, his parents sent him and his brother to America to escape the anti- Semitic persecution in the Russian Empire. Nutya wandered around the U.S., working as a shoeshine boy and a boxer, and claimed to have hung out with the infamous Pretty Boy Floyd. At age 32, he met and married a Minnesota girl by the name of Helen “Bobbie” Kruger. The newlyweds moved to New York City and opened a ladies' boutique specializing in custom-made apparel for burlesque dancers.

In 1940, Nutya and Bobbie had relocated to Los Angeles, launching a line of western wear out of their garage. By 1950, they operated a permanent shop in North Hollywood, selling customized suits and eventually, customized boots, belts, saddles, and even automobiles. His very first client in 1947 was a struggling country singer named Tex Williams. Nutya persuaded Tex to buy him a sewing machine. In exchange, he designed clothing for Tex.

From the beginning, his designs were very flamboyant and ostentatious, littered with rhinestones and themed images using chain stitch embroidery.

Nutya Kotlyrenko with Elvis.
Nutya Kotlyrenko with Elvis

Among his early creations was Elvis Presley's famous $10,000 gold lamé suit that the singer donned for the 50,000,000 Elvis Fans Can't Be Wrong album cover. The gregarious tailor created outfits for legendary film stars, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, John Wayne, and Gene Autrey. He was the architect behind Hank Williams's white cowboy suit with the musical notes on the sleeves, as well as Gram Parsons's famous suitadorned with marijuana leaves, pills, naked women on the lapels, and a huge cross on the back. Parsons's suit is now on display in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. His list of customers reads like a Who's Who of personalities, including Bob Dylan, John Lennon, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, Cher, Elton John, Glen Campbell, Chicago, America, ZZ Top, Ronald Reagan, and Robert Redford. Many celebrities and dedicated customers attended Nutya's funeral in 1984. Dale Evans delivered his eulogy. Nutya Kotlyrenko entered this country as an 11-year old son of a Ukrainian boot maker and found fame and fortune, equal to many of his fabled customers, as a Los Angeles rodeo tailor. Were it not for the immigration officials in New York City having trouble understanding his name, the world may have never known Nudie Cohn.

19th Annual Gram Parsons Guitar Pull and Tribute Festival Advance Weekend Passes:

REFERENCES Wikipedia Roadies: “Friends and Family” Season 1, Episode 5, Showtime Memories straight from the mind of Uncle Dave Griffin

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