The new Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum — set to open in downtown Nashville in May — will offer country fans the chance to see some of the most precious artifacts in country music history, including the guitars of Jimmie Rodgers and Mother Maybelle Carter. Now the Hall of Fame has added to that list one of the most famous outfits in country — a stunning stage costume once worn by Hank Williams Sr.
This spectacular suit was presented to the Hall of Fame by manager Merle Kilgore on behalf of his famous client, Hank Williams Jr. Several months ago, Kilgore and Hank Jr. were asked to think about loaning a Hank Williams outfit to the new Country Music Hall of Fame. Hank Jr. chose his father’s most legendary suit.
The beautiful suit was designed by Nudie, the West Coast tailor who supplied many country stars with custom stagewear. The cream-colored suit features blue musical notes in eye-catching relief. The back shoulder area includes a guitar, an image previously unseen in published photos of Williams.
“All the photos I’ve ever seen of this suit are black and white,” says Hall of Fame curator Mark Medley. “But even in those shots this is clearly Hank Williams’ most eye-catching outfit. After all these years, to experience this suit up close is a very special experience.” Completing the outfit are several color-coordinated items: a pair of hand-tooled western boots, a western shirt and a necktie.
“It’s probably the most famous suit in country music history,” says Kilgore, and with good reason. Williams is widely considered country’s greatest songwriter, and many who saw him onstage affirm his power as a stage performer. “This was Hank’s last suit,” Kilgore adds. “He was carrying it with him in his Cadillac when he died. It’s the suit he would have worn on the show he was scheduled to do in Canton, Ohio. It gives me chills every time I think about it.”
Knowing he was carrying such an important artifact to the Hall of Fame made the normally laid-back Kilgore nervous, he confesses. “I sure didn’t want anything to happen to it before I got it here. I was thinking, when I was a teenager, I used to carry Hank’s guitar for him. That’s when he was working the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, just before he moved up to Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry. Now I’m carrying his most special costume to the Country Music Hall of Fame. I know the fans are going to love seeing it because it’s really part of Hank. I mean, it’s got his DNA on it. Hank’s magic is still there.”