90-year-old Tejano musician returns to childhood home on Rainey Street


AUSTIN (KXAN) — In just over a decade, a neighborhood of single-family homes on Rainey Street transformed into an entertainment district with bars, restaurants and a new cluster of high-rise buildings.

KXAN recently joined a 90-year-old Tejano musician who returned to his childhood home on Rainey Street–only now it’s a popular bar.

Manuel “Cowboy” Donley is in the Tejano Music Hall of Fame, has won many awards, and until recently, played weekly gigs. He grew up in Austin and lived at 83 Rainey with his family from 1947 to 1955. Age has robbed him of many memories, so his family brought him back to the neighborhood before all the memories fade away.

“It was a nice house, ya know? Very few people had houses that big,” says Cowboy.

The house is now a bar called Icenhauer’s. The owner, Michael Icenhauer, let Cowboy and his family take a tour. Icenhauer bought the property in 2009 and spent a year renovating it. “We found three layers of wallpaper on the walls and it’s just–there’s a lot of history that happened and we’re happy to be a part of it,” says Icenhauer.

“Back then this was considered a big house and they had weddings or fiestas here. It was a happening place, but not like today!” says Cowboy’s daughter Sylvia Donley.

Cowboy and Sylvia brought their guitars and played some of their favorite songs. The neighborhood is transformed, but it’s nice to hear Cowboy’s music return to the house where it once filled the rooms.

"Cowboy" at 83 Rainey,
 now Icenhauer's bar, with his family and the owner of Icenhauer's. (KXAN photo / Sydney Benter)

The Future of Rainey Street

Plans for one project aim to preserve a little piece of the area’s past. Developer Sackman Enterprises is working on 78-84 Rainey. The concept involves incorporating two existing bungalows into a mixed use building. They also plan to have three levels of underground parking.

That same developer is already working on 70 Rainey, a 34-story, 164 residence luxury condo tower is currently under construction. Sackman Enterprises expects it’ll be finished next year.This story is part of a series KXAN’s Sydney Benter is covering on the changes happening in Austin from music to development. Read the rest of her stories here.

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