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Mickey Gilley
Mickey Gilley (117 Entertainment)

Urban Country Legend Mickey Gilley Dead At 86

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BRANSON, M.O.  (CelebrityAccess) — Pioneering country singer-songwriter, club owner, and actor, Mickey Gilley, who recorded hits such as “Room Full of Roses” and “Lonely Nights,” died on Saturday. He was 86.

According to a statement from his publicist, Gilley, who just completed a run of ten shows in April, died peacefully among family in Branson, Missouri. A cause of death was not disclosed.

With a career that spanned almost 70 years, Gilley recorded dozens of top ten hits, including 17 number one singles, such as “Window Up Above,” “Stand by Me,” and “Talk to Me.”

A native of Natchez, Mississippi, Gilley was a cousin to both televangelist Jimmy Swaggart and rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis, who taught both of his cousins to play piano and inspired Gilley to pursue a career in music.

In the late 1950s, Gilley began playing as a session musician around New Orleans and recorded several singles for Minor and Dot Records, including the 1958 hit “Call Me Shorty.” He spent the next decade building a regional following in Texas while experimenting with different styles such as blues and gospel and refining his sound.

In the 1970s, Gilley broke through on the charts, starting in 1974 with Room Full of Roses and following it up with City Lights, which both peaked at #1 on the Billboard Country Album chart. Throughout the 1970s, he scored a string of number one singles along with a string of ten top 10 albums such as Overnight Sensation and Gilley’s Smokin’.

In addition to his career as a recording artist, Gilley in 1971 opened his namesake honkey-tonk in Pasadena, Texas. The club was famously featured in the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy,” starring John Travolta. The movie was primarily filmed at the honkey-tonk and the notoriety helped Gilley to expand the brand into a regional chain.

Gilley parleyed his success on the big screen into numerous television roles as well, including 1980s primetime staples “Murder She Wrote,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”

The success of the film helped also to spark the country-pop crossover ‘Urban Cowboy’ scene that included artists such as Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, and Glen Campbell.

As well, the film proved to be a shot in the arm for Gilley’s career and he found chart renewed success with hits such as “Paradise Tonight,” “Fool For Your Love,” and “Lonely Nights.”

“I thank John Travolta every night before bed for keeping my career alive, it’s impossible to tell you how grateful I am for my involvement with ‘Urban Cowboy.’ That film had a huge impact on my career, and still does,” Gilley told the AP in a 2002 interview.

However, as country fans turned away from the country pop sound and towards country traditionalists such as Ricky Scaggs and Keith Whitley, Gilley’s chart success faded and he released his final top 40 hit, “She Reminded Me of You,” in 1988.

The shifting sands of country music also impacted his club and Gilley’s closed its doors in 1989, shortly before the club was destroyed in a fire.

In his later years, Gilley became a featured performer in Branson, Missouri, where he built a theater, helping the town to become a country music destination and continued to actively tour the U.S., including in 2019 when he completed the 40-date Urban Cowboy Reunion Tour with fellow country icon Johnny Lee.

Gilley recorded his final studio album, Two Old Cats with Tom Payne in 2018.

Throughout his long career, Gilley accumulated an impressive array of awards, including 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.

Gilley 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 and his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart.

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