Marty Stuart Praises Tailor Manuel

This appeared on - February 18, 2008

When Marty Stuart donated a load of memorabilia to the Country Music Hall of Fame last week, one of the items he gave away was the black outfit that he wore for the cover of his critically acclaimed album The Pilgrim.

The clothing was designed by Manuel, who was on hand at the ceremony, and Marty told a bit of the saga behind the fashion icon's life. Manuel grew up in Mexico, where he sold oranges on the street corner to buy tickets to the cowboy movies, particularly to see his favorite, the Lone Ranger. When Manuel moved to the U.S. and started working for famed western tailor Nudie Cohen in Los Angeles, Manuel's first job was to sew a shirt for his silver-screen hero, the Lone Ranger.

"I love the American dream," Marty beamed.

Marty recalled his first trip to Nudie's store, when he was working in Lester Flatt's band. He'd saved up $250 to buy a rhinestone suit, but he was devastated to find out the one he wanted cost $2,500. Manuel was in the store, and he struck up a conversation with Marty, predicting that some day, the young musician could afford to buy every costume they had. He gave Marty a free shirt.

"He knew what he was doing," Marty laughed, " 'cause I'm his best customer."

Regarding his own fashion tastes, Marty has tried to blend the looks of some of his heroes: Porter Wagoner, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein.

"I wanted to wear rhinestones," Marty explained, "and I wanted to look kind of ridiculous. And I achieved that — in spades!"

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