Country music legend Mickey Gilley dead at 86

PASADENA, Texas — Country music legend Mickey Gilley, whose Houston-area honky-tonk inspired the 1980 movie “Urban Cowboy,” died on Saturday. He was 86.

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Gilley, who had 17 No. 1 hits during his career, died in Branson, Missouri, according to The Associated Press. “He passed peacefully with his family and close friends by his side,” according to a statement from Mickey Gilley Associates.

By the mid-1970s, Gilley was a successful club owner and had a string of hits, including “Room Full of Roses,” “Window Up Above,” “She’s Pulling Me Back Again” and “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.”

The singer’s death comes less than a week after he announced tour date cancellations, citing health issues and lower energy levels prevented him from being at his best, KHOU-TV reported.

Gilley had 39 top-10 country hits, according to the AP. He received six Academy of Country Music Awards, and was an occasional actor, appearing on “Murder She Wrote,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island” and “The Dukes of Hazzard.”

Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner confirmed Gilley’s death, saying that the singer was surrounded by loved ones.

“Pasadena has lost a true legend,” Wagner said in a statement. “It was my great honor to know this man most of my life. Mickey was a true musical talent who charted 42 singles in the Top 40 country charts over a span of two decades. His talent and larger-than-life personality helped ignite a new interest in country music as he introduced the world to Pasadena through his dance hall and ‘Urban Cowboy’ in 1980. We were so honored to have Mickey perform at our State of the City in February 2020. Our prayers for comfort and peace are with Mickey’s family, his loved ones and his fans.”

According to Gilleys.com, the singer was born on March 9, 1936, in Natchez, Mississippi. A cousin of rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis, Gilley grew up in Louisiana where he learned the sounds of rhythm and blues “by sneaking up to the windows of the clubs at night,” according to his website.

The Mississippi native moved to Pasadena in 1971, opening the famous honky-tonk nightclub, Gilley’s, the Houston Chronicle reported. He created music inspired by the sound of Louisiana’s R&B music with chart-topping hits “Is It Wrong For Loving You” and the remake of the Soul hit “Stand by Me.”

Gilley’s honky-tonk, which featured a mechanical bull, got a boost when “Urban Cowboy” was released. The movie, which starred John Travolta and Debra Winger, is considered by many movie buffs as a country version of Travolta’s 1977 disco film blockbuster, “Saturday Night Fever.”

“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.’ That film had a huge impact on my career, and still does.”

Gilley earned numerous awards including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, according to the Chronicle.

“I’m so very sorry to learn that our good friend and incredible legend in country music, Mickey Gilley has passed,” country music legend Gene Watson said in a statement. “A great singer and a great showman -- and always a great friend. Please send your prayers out for his family.”

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