Country star Mickey Gilley, whose honky-tonk Texas namesake inspired the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy” and a national wave of Western-themed nightclubs, has passed away. He was 86 years old.
Gilley died Saturday in Branson, Missouri, where he helped direct the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theater. He was performing as recently as last month, but his health was precarious over the past week.
“He talked quietly with his family and close friends by his side,” according to a statement from Mickey Gilley Associates.
Gilley, the cousin of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, opened Gilley’s, “the world’s largest honky tonk,” in Pasadena, Texas in the early 1970s. In the mid-1990s, he was a successful club owner and had enjoyed his first commercial success with “Room Full of Roses.” She began producing country hits on a regular basis, including “Window Up Above”, “She’s Pulling Me Back Again” and the honky-tonk anthem “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time”.
Overall, he has had 39 country top 10 hits and 17 No. 1 songs. and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
“If I had a wish in life, I would wish for more time,” Gilley told The Associated Press in March 2001 as she celebrated her 65th birthday. Not that he does anything different, the singer said.
“I’m doing exactly what I want to do. I play golf, I fly on my plane and I act in my theater in Branson, Missouri,” he said. “I love doing my show for people.”
Meanwhile, the attractions of the gigantic nightclub, including its famous mechanical bull, led to the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy,” starring John Travolta and Debra Winger and considered by many to be a rural version of Travolta’s smash album in 1977. “Saturday Night Fever”. The Gilley Club-inspired film was based on an article by Aaron Latham’s Esquire on the relationship between two club regulars.
“I thank John Travolta every night before bed for keeping my career alive,” Gilley told the AP in 2002. “It’s impossible to tell you how grateful I am for my involvement with ‘Urban Cowboy.’ my career, and it still does. “
The soundtrack included hits such as Johnny Lee’s “Lookin ‘for Love,” Boz Scaggs’ “Look What You’ve Done for Me,” and Gilley’s “Stand by Me.” The film turned the Pasadena Club into an overnight tourist attraction and popularized pearl shirts, long-necked beers, steel guitars, and mechanical bulls across the country.
But the club closed in 1989 after Gilley and his business partner Sherwood Cryer quarreled over how to run the venue. A fire destroyed it shortly afterwards.
An exclusive version of the former Gilley nightclub opened in Dallas in 2003. In recent years, Gilley has moved to Branson.
He has been married three times, most recently to Cindy Loeb Gilley. He had four children, three with his first wife, Geraldine Garrett, and one with his second, Vivian McDonald.
Gilley, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, grew up poor and learned piano boogie-woogie in Ferriday, Louisiana with Lewis and his cousin Jimmy Swaggart, the future evangelist. Like Lewis, he would sneak into the windows of Louisiana clubs to listen to rhythm and blues. He moved to Houston to work in construction, but played on the local club scene at night and recorded and toured for years before entering the 1970s.
Gilley had suffered from health problems in recent years. He underwent brain surgery in August 2008 after specialists diagnosed him with hydrocephalus, a condition characterized by an increase in fluid in the skull. Gilley had suffered a short-term memory loss and attributed it to surgery that slowed the onset of dementia.
He underwent surgery in 2009 after falling off a rung, forcing him to cancel scheduled performances at Branson. In 2018, he suffered an ankle and right shoulder fracture in a car accident.
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