Bernard Lansky, co-founder of Lansky Bros. clothing and known as the “Clothier to the King,” died early Thursday morning at age 85, according to his family.
A public service will be held Friday at Baron Hirsch Synagogue at 400 South Yates at 11 a.m., with interment to follow at Baron Hirsch Cemetery.
Mr. Lansky, who outfitted Elvis Presley during his time in Memphis, was recognized for influencing the fashion of “The King” and other entertainers, and therefore the fashion of rock and roll.
The store, founded in 1946 at 126 Beale by Bernard Lansky and his brother, Guy Lansky, became a destination for other iconic musicians as well, including Johnny Cash, David Porter, Rufus Thomas, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison.
Lansky Bros. relocated to The Peabody in 1981, becoming “Lansky at The Peabody.”
Mr. Lansky was “a retail visionary,” said Julie Lansky, his granddaughter and manager of another family store, Lansky 126 at The Peabody. “He knew social media before social media was in existence. He knew how to network with people,” she said.
Mr. Lansky “floated,” entertainers, which was his word for giving them suits, she said, and he dressed Presley for his breakthrough 1956 performance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
“Bernard had an eye and a feel for what worked on stage,” said Stax legend David Porter, another artist he helped.
He recognized rising talent and the advertising value of having his clothes on their backs. When Presley, Porter and others became famous, they shopped with him and recommended him to their friends.
Just as adept at recognizing trends, Lansky Bros. is believed to be the first store in Memphis to carry peg-leg pants, Levi’s and white-tailed tuxedos. In the 1960s, the store introduced Memphis men to the bell-bottomed Carnaby Street look, according to Hal Lansky, who worked with his father for almost 50 years. In the 1970s, it was perhaps the only menswear store in America to employ a full-time furrier to churn out “Super Fly,” clothes, he said. Isaac Hayes bought his stacked shoes, leather coats and wildly colored shirts there.
The original location of Lansky Bros. was recognized as a Shelby County historical place last year in an Elvis Week ceremony attended by Mr. Lansky and his family.
At The Peabody, the store continued to attract entertainers including Steven Tyler, Carrie Underwood and Robert Plant, lead singer of Led Zeppelin.
Mr. Lansky came to the store seven days a week until he was 82. “Sometimes he got there at 6 a.m. and had a day’s business in the register before the rest of us showed up,” said Julie Lansky.
In is later years, Mr. Lansky became a kind of unofficial “goodwill ambassador,” for the hotel, she said.
Known as “Mr. B.,” the dapperly dressed Mr. Lansky always had time to tell appreciative tourists stories of the old days of Beale Street, Presley and rock ‘n roll.
Mr. Lansky leaves behind his wife of 64 years, Joyce; son Hal Lansky; daughter Anise Belz; and four siblings, Mildred Krasner, Frank Lansky, Bernice Banes and Alvin Lansky.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorial contributions be directed to Baron Hirsch Synagogue, Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab, or the Mid-South Chapter of the Alzheimer‘s Association.