Tejano music icon Manuel ‘Cowboy’ Donley dies at 92

Austin
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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin-based Tejano Music Hall of Fame icon Manuel “Cowboy” Donley died Sunday of natural causes, his family tells KXAN. He was 92.

“My grandfather was an extraordinary human being,” says Chad Delfino, who Donley’s grandson. “He was so kind and always enjoyed giving all of his grand kids (including myself) little “pep talks” and to always enjoy life.”

The guitarist grew up in downtown Austin after moving from Durango, Mexico at a young age. Donley and his family lived on Rainey Street, the now-popular bar area, from 1947 until 1955.

Thank you, Grandpa for everything and enjoy playing music from up above.

Chad Delfino, grandson of Manuel Donley

Donley reportedly taught himself how to play guitar as a young boy before touring and performing the Texas-based Latin music around the country for eight decades. In the 1950s, Donley formed the group Las Estrellas.

In 1986, Donley was inducted into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame, and earned multiple awards during a 65-year career in music. Donley only stopped playing weekly gigs a little before 2017.

He told NBC News in 2014, at the age of 87, that performing was what kept him alive. Donley also received the National Endowment for the Arts’ lifetime achievement award in Washington D.C. in 2014. Donley won the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center in Austin in 2012.

Delfino said in a statement to KXAN that even though Donley’s dementia progressed with his age, he never forgot how to play his guitar. “He would sit in his recliner for hours and string at his guitar and would also randomly start singing songs to my grandmother who was always sitting by his side,” he said, adding that Donley’s wife, Herminia Donley, took care of him until his last day on Earth.

“She may have lost her partner for life but she will always know that her family and friends will never let her be alone and will always be there for her each and every day,” Delfino said.

Read Delfino’s full statement below:

My grandfather was an extraordinary human being. He never stopped chasing his goals and always worked so hard at everything he did and that’s what separated him from others. He was so kind and always enjoyed giving all of his grand kids (including myself) little “pep talks” and to always enjoy life.  Even though his dementia worsened with age, he didn’t forget how to play the guitar. He would sit in his recliner for hours and string at his guitar and would also randomly start singing songs to my grandmother who was always sitting by his side. My grandmother is such a strong person and she took care of him until his last day on this earth. She may have lost her partner for life but she will always know that her family and friends will never let her be alone and will always be there for her each and every day. Thank you, Grandpa for everything and enjoy playing music from up above.

Chad Delfino

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