Over the past forty years intensive investigations into the use of compliant surfaces have been undertaken, both theoretically and experimentally, in order to obtain turbulent drag reduction in boundary–layer flows. Although positive results were found in some of the studies, none of these had been successfully validated by independent researchers. In this paper the results are reported of a recent investigation carried out by the authors to verify the experimental results of Semenov in 1991 and Kulik and co–workers in 1991, who successfully demonstrated the ability of compliant surfaces to reduce the skin–friction drag and surface–flow noise in a turbulent boundary layer. A strain–gauge force balance was used in the present study to directly measure the turbulent skin–friction drag of a slender body of revolution in a water tunnel. Changes in the structure of turbulent boundary layer over a compliant surface in comparison with that over a rigid surface were also examined. The results clearly demonstrate that the turbulent skin friction is reduced for one of the two compliant coatings tested, indicating a drag reduction of up to 7 per cent within the entire speed range of the tests. The intensities of skin–friction and wall–pressure fluctuations measured immediately downstream from the compliant coating show reductions in the intensities of up to 7 and 19 per cent, respectively. The results also indicate reductions in turbulence intensity by up to 5 per cent across almost the entire boundary layer. Furthermore, an upwards shift of the logarithmic velocity profile is also evident indicating that the thickness of the viscous sublayer is increased as a result of turbulent drag reduction due to the compliant coating. It is considered that the results of the present experimental investigation convincingly demonstrate for the first time since the earlier work in Russia (by Semenov and Kulik) that a compliant surface can indeed produce turbulent drag reduction in boundary–layer flows.