Jul 24, 2023 - News

A long-lost suit's globe-trotting journey into music history

A suit with roses on the back.

Chris Ethridge's long-lost suit. Photo: courtesy of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

A long-lost piece of rhinestone-studded music history has made its way to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

Between the seams: The shimmering suit, which was created by legendary designer Manuel Cuevas, originally belonged to bass guitarist Chris Ethridge while he was in The Flying Burrito Brothers. It is featured on the cover of the band's influential 1969 album "The Gilded Palace of Sin."

  • The country-rock band influenced a generation of country acts.

Yes, but: The suit was reported stolen from a car later the same year, according to the hall of fame.

  • Somehow, the distinctive suit adorned with red and yellow roses was returned to Nudie's Rodeo Tailors shop in Los Angeles. Elton John unwittingly bought it off the rack in 1970, per the hall of fame.
  • John wore the suit in the single artwork for his 1972 classic "Rocket Man."

The Tennessean reports that no one in The Flying Burrito Brothers' orbit made the connection, and the suit was eventually sold to a private owner in 1988.

State of play: When the hall of fame launched its exhibit celebrating California country-rock of the 1960s and 1970s, they wanted to include the four Nudie suits band members wore on The Flying Burrito Brothers album cover.

  • But one was missing.

The latest: Ethridge's daughter Necia recently found out the fashion artifact was up for auction, and discovered the suit's unlikely path through rock history. She bought it this year after months of private negotiations.

  • She celebrated what she called "operation suit recovery" at a special event at the hall of fame last week.
  • She loaned the suit to the hall of fame so it could be reunited with the bedazzled suits from the other Flying Burrito Brothers members, including Gram Parsons.

The bottom line: "This is an incredible moment for the Ethridge family and our museum," Kyle Young, CEO of the hall of fame, said in a statement.

  • "To think that such an iconic piece of cosmic cowboy couture took a ride with the 'Rocket Man' and made it back home is almost unbelievable. But it happened."

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Nashville stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Nashville.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more