Mickey Gilley, ‘Urban Cowboy’ Music Star, Dies at 86
Mickey Gilley, a country singer and actor who was featured in the 1980 John Travolta film “Urban Cowboy,” has died. He was 86.
Gilley died Saturday in Branson, Missouri, having just played 10 shows on the road throughout April. He died peacefully with his family and close friends by his side, according to his reps in a press release. No cause of death was given.
Gilley was known for songs like “Room Full of Roses” and had a string of hits throughout the 1970s, but he found a career resurgence when he covered the soul classic “Stand by Me” and had both himself and his new recording featured in “Urban Cowboy” with Travolta, Debra Winger and Johnny Lee.
Prior to his recording career taking off, in 1971 Gilley founded Gilley’s Club, a nightclub in Pasadena, Texas, then known as the “world’s biggest honky-tonk.” “Urban Cowboy” portrayed the football field-sized club and its famous mechanical bull ride, and it helped to later spark a wider chain of the nightclubs.
Gilley’s music also exploded in popularity after the success of “Urban Cowboy,” helping “Stand by Me” top the country charts and launching some of his older hits into the Billboard 100. He would follow-up the film with six different No. 1 hits on the country charts such as “Lonely Nights” and “A Headache Tomorrow (Or a Heartache Tonight).”
The renewed success also helped him appear in TV shows like “Murder She Wrote,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
Gilley is a native of Natchez, Mississippi, and was surrounded by musical influences from a young age and grew up alongside his two famous cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. 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.”
Some of his other hits including “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 his career, he would earn 39 Top 10 hits and 17 No. 1 songs. He also won six Academy of Country Music Awards, has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011.
Gilley is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.