Country Star Mickey Gilley Has Died At the Age of 86
If you have seen the 1980s movie “Urban Cowboy” staring John Travolta, you have been touched by the life of Mickey Gilley. If you have heard the songs “Lonely Nights” or “Room Full of Roses,” you have been touched by the life of Mickey Gilley.
Gilley was born in Mississippi in 1936, but he grew up in Louisiana where he hung out with his cousins Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Lee Lewis. Lewis taught him to play the piano, and music was always a part of his life.
Gilley’s music career started in the 1950s when he recorded his first single – “Ooh Wee Baby.” He went on to become a country star with 17 number 1 songs during his career. He also earned six Academy of Country Music Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2011, he was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.
The country star’s music spanned a wide range from gospel to rhythm and blues to country-pop, but one of the things he was best known for wasn’t his music but a night club named Gilley’s. This night club became the inspiration for the movie “Urban Cowboy.”
The club was originally named “Shelly’s,” but in 1971 when the owner, Sherwood Cryer, hired Gilley to be in-house talent for the club, he changed the name to Gilley’s. The honky-tonk night club in Pasadena, Texas, had a huge dance floor, a mechanic bull and an adjacent recording studio. While Gilley was the in-house talent, the club also featured many other stars in the country music world including Johnny Lee and Loretta Lynn.
After the movie “Urban Cowboy,” the night club was copied across the country. Gilley once told The Las Vegas Sun, “It was kind of a cultural phenomenon that got discovered. It was a big subculture that spread all across the nation.”
Gilley continued to perform throughout his life. He recently performed what would be his last tour. In April 2022, at age 86, he finished a 10 show tour. Then, on May 9, he died in Branson, Missouri. He was surrounded by family and friends. No cause of death has been reported.
Gilley’s publicist, Zach Farnum, told NPR that being on tour was Gilley’s “favorite place.” He added that Gilley “passed peacefully.”
Upon hearing the news of Gilley’s passing, the country music world took to Twitter to say farewell.
Just heard that MIKEY GILLEY has just passed away … wow … another singing friend has gone home … Bye Mickey … until the day pic.twitter.com/VFnRT6DazU
— The Oak Ridge Boys (@oakridgeboys) May 7, 2022
During tonight’s Opry show, we took a moment to recognize Mickey Gilley and his contributions to country music. You’ll be missed, Mickey.♥️ pic.twitter.com/CPdT2jh0dK
— Grand Ole Opry (@opry) May 8, 2022
So sad to hear of the passing of Country Music Legend Mickey Gilley. Our paths crossed a few times being in Branson; and Gene Watson & I did his TV show. Fortunate to hang out backstage w/Johnny Lee & Mickey Gilley. Great stories and great memories. May He Rest In Peace. ￼ pic.twitter.com/tKiZHj3hYN
— Rhonda Vincent (@RhondaVincent13) May 7, 2022