Mickey Gilley, who ran one of the world’s largest honky tonks in Pasadena, Texas and was credited with helping foster country music’s revival in the late ’70s as a key part of the Urban Cowboy film, has died. He was 86 and his death was announced by the Pasadena, Texas mayor, where the club was located.
Gilley died Saturday in Branson, Missouri. He had just ended a ten-show tour in April and died at home. No cause has been revealed.
Gilley’s was a football-field-sized dancehall, boasting a capacity of 6,000. It caught fire as the center of the John Travolta-Debra Winger film Urban Cowboy in 1978. It also introduced much of the world to mechanical bull riding.
Before that, Gilley was a country music singer who made his mark with “Is It Wrong for Loving You,” and had 39 Top Ten Hits on the BIllboard Country Music charts. His hits included “Stand By Me,” “Room Full of Roses” and “Lonely Nights.”
Gilley, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, combined Louisiana rhythm and blues and country-pop crossover melodies. He grew up with his two famous cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, surrounded by the influence of music.
In 1971, Gilley opened his world-famous honky-tonk Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas, which later sparked a chain of the famous nightclubs.
The son of Arthur Fillmore Gilley and Irene (Lewis) Gilley, Gilley learned how to play piano from Lewis, and dabbled in boogie-woogie and gospel music early in his career before finding his professional footing in the ’70s with “Room Full of Roses.”
Hits “Chains of Love,” “Honky Tonk Memories,” “She’s Pulling Me Back Again,” and “Here Comes the Hurt Again” followed, as his honky-tonk gave way to the more progressive countrypolitan.
In 1980, Gilley splashed into pop culture when he appeared in the film Urban Cowboy. Gilley’s served as the backdrop for the film, which helped launch his acting career. Gilley went on to star in popular television series, including “Murder She Wrote,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island,” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”
Gilley earned six Academy of Country Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He was one of only a handful of artists to receive the Academy of Country Music’s Triple Crown Awards.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Vivian. He is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.