Urban cowboy Mickey Gilley is dead

There are few artists more synonymous with a specific era in country music than Mickey Gilley was with the Urban Cowboy movement – the early ’80s influence that took country music out of the country and into industrialized urban areas where many rural residents flocked for blue-collar jobs. The 1980 movie Urban cowboy featuring John Travolta popularized the era, but Mickey Gilly soundtracked it and also gave it the iconic setting with his legendary honky-tonk in Pasadena, Texas.

Mickey Gilley’s impact was felt in far more than just one era, spending more than 60 years in the company, hitting 16 No. 1 songs during his career, and remaining active well into his 80s. It’s all over now, with the word out Mickey Gilley has died aged 86, and just after leaving the road where he played 10 shows in April, still running. He passed away surrounded by his friends and family.

Mickey Gilly grew up in the shadow of his famous cousin Jerry Lee Lewis and was also related to performer and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Born in Natchez, Mississippi on March 9, 1936, Gilley began his career working first in boogie-woogie and gospel music. He released a few singles, but nothing really stuck. Then he released the song “Room Full of Roses” just for fun and it hit No. 1 in 1974. His next three singles would also hit No. 1, and his career was off to the races.

Mickey Gilley wasn’t exactly favored by country music purists. By incorporating more pop sounds into country, he helped open the door to crossover stars such as Kenny Rogers, at a time when artists outside the genre such as Olivia Newton-John and John Denver were also finding favor. country format.

When Urban Cowboy was released in 1980, Mickey Gilley found a whole new level of appreciation, with eight of the following nine singles reaching No. 1, making him one of the country’s most popular artists. And although some of the country oldies criticized Gilley, none of his big hits ever made it to pop, while today’s twang-hungry audience listen to some of Mickey Gilley’s greatest hits such as “True Love Ways”, “A Headache Tomorrow ( Ou a Heartache Tonight), “You Don’t Know Me” and “Lonely Nights”, and listen to classic country gold.

But just as important as his contributions as a performer were Mickey Gilley’s contributions to country music as a venue owner. The layout of the mega honky-tonk and the legacy of the mechanical bull are all partly the responsibility of Mickey Gilley. First opening Gilley’s Club in 1970, which quickly became known as “the world’s greatest honky-tonk”, the concept has become iconic across the Urban cowboy film, and was subsequently imitated by many owners and promoters across the United States.

The club part of Gilley’s burned down in 1990 and exemplified the end of an era, as country music’s Urban Cowboy era came to an end in the throes of the “Class of 89” featuring Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson and others taking the country in a different direction. The spirit of Gilley’s lives on, with a sister branch open in Dallas, and Billy Bob’s Texas, today’s “biggest honky-tonk,” in Ft. Still worth a try.

Mickey Gilley was also known for his work films, won numerous accolades including six Academy of Country Music Awards, was one of the few artists to receive the Academy of Country Music’s Triple Crown Award, and also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Notoriety. Gilley also remained lifelong friends with fellow performer Johnny Lee, whose legacy was also cemented through the Urban cowboy film.

Mickey Gilley was predeceased by his wife, Vivian, and is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren, and his cousins ​​Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart.