MANUEL CUEVAS: I've never been poor, I'’’ve never been rich.
I, I just LAURA WOOLLEY: But you'’’ve always been well-dressed.
CORAL PEÑA: Who did classic country crooners and music legends such as Elvis Presley, John Lennon, and Frank Sinatra turn to for one-of-a-kind costumes?
Manuel Cuevas, a celebrity fashion designer from Michoacán, Mexico, who may just be one of the most famous clothing icons that you'’’ve never heard of.
Manuel is credited for countless iconic celebrity looks, including helping Johnny Cash become The Man in Black.
CUEVAS: He'’’s the famous [one], I am not.
PEÑA: And today, his show-stopping rhinestone suits line the Country Music Hall of Fame.
During ROADSHOW'’’s 2022 stop in Nashville, our cameras made a special visit to Manuel'’’s studio and storefront in the neighborhood of Berry Hill, where we spoke to him about his 80-plus-year career.
CUEVAS: I was seven years old.
It was in front of my brother that he told me, Why don'’’t you help me sit down at the sewing machine and make these hats?
I said, Why don'’’t I?
So I sat down at the sewing machine and I haven't gotten up yet.
I started making my shirts and my pants and one year later, my coats, and I said, I'’’m never gonna dress like the rest of the people.
It's just amazing, the friendships that I acquired.
I mean, I never met a musician I didn'’’t like, honestly.
They'’’re good people.
I knew about the Beatles before they came to the United States, and I love the Beatles.
I love John Lennon, one of my best friends [is] John.
Frank Sinatra gave me a $1,000 tip.
I fitted the first outfit for him in his life.
And he gave me a tip, I put it inside my coat.
I never touched it until I got home.
And Frank Sinatra, Frank Sinatra everybody [was] making a big [deal about] Frank Sinatra.
I said, Who'’’s this guy?
I met Elvis Presley two days after I met his manager, but I didn't know who Elvis Presley was.
All I knew is that this guy with a stinking cigar told me he was worth $1 million, I said, So was the kid last week, I said.
Linda Dyer was, in fact, a very likable person from the beginning when we met and she wanted to get some clothing from me.
LINDA DYER: Being there in the studio in the shop, I'd watch the door open and I'’’d watch either a new artist come in or an old artist come in all looking for him.
One of my favorite adventures of being in Manuel'’’s store is I walked in, and the place was alive with people speaking Spanish.
So I'’’m thinking, Oh, his family'’’s in town.
It turned out to be a very important Tejano band called Los Tigres Del Norte, The Northern Tigers.
And Manuel was given permission by the country of Mexico to make jackets for them with the rampant eagle on it, holding the snake, which is verboten to reproduce.
And he'’’s been honored in his home country numerous times.
Manuel created a collection of state jackets, one for each state in the union.
It'’’s his thank you for what this country has given to him.
CUEVAS: How in the world can you thank a country?
I'’’m not Joan of Arc, I'’’m not you know.
DYER: His vision for them is to be housed in one major location but he created two of each.
So one was to go to each state and be in their state house.
Manuel: I said [from] what I know, I'm going to write the history of each state in one and a half yards of fabric.
and I'’’m going to call that jacket the State Jacket for the 50 States of America.
And I'’’m just going to give them to the country.
DYER: I would go in when I heard we were doing the ROADSHOW in Texas And I'’’d pray Texas was a good color on me because he would just let me take them and they'’’re valued at, like, $40,000 apiece.
People have so much love for him because he's always been present but never his dreams are not big.
They're not about financial gain, his dream is about creating.
CUEVAS: I've never had any time in my short life as a young man [not] wanting to do something like what I'm doing now.
I want to die with the scissors in my hand.
What I do I love.
So I really have not worked an hour in my life.