At the tender age of 15, Michael got a gig at a Cleveland area pub called The Stardust Lounge. Buster, the owner, had an organ that he wanted someone to play, so Michael brought his “Carpenters Gold” songbook, and played a few hours every Thursday night. The regulars offered him good money to stop playing so they could listen to the jukebox.
A local singer named Jeanne Hill came to his rescue and sang while he played, and the two eventually formed a duo called Softouch, which performed regularly at clubs and private parties during Michael’s high school years. He credits this experience with teaching him all those 70s songs that served him so well later as the lounge-lizard Hugh Butternut in Triple Espresso: a highly caffeinated comedy.
“I began writing bad songs at the age of 8,” Michael says, “songs that my siblings still sing at gatherings for the sake of my humiliation. When I was a teenager, I played some of my original songs for a professional songwriter, and he was about to tell me to go into a different line of work, when I played one last song for him. His eyes lit up, and thus began a relationship that was pivotal in my formation as a songwriter.” Steve Stanziano taught Michael much about the craft of songwriting, which grew into years of writing and arranging songs.
Michael’s Christian faith is central to his life and his work. As he has pursued his work in the professional entertainment industry, his commitment to Christ has informed every decision and made him determined to live with integrity and excellence. He has been the worship coordinator and worship leader at Roseville Covenant Church since 1995.
Soon after marrying Joy in 1988, he developed a serious form of cancer. This disease and his healing from it have opened up doors to helping others cope with suffering and illness. His concerts and appearances have a sense of hope and joy that are drawn deeply from various physical challenges he’s faced.
If someone offers you the chance to work with Donley. . . take it!
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