Mickey Gilley, the country music hitmaker and an inspiration behind Urban Cowboy, is dead at 86


Mickey Gilley, the country music singer with a string of hits in the 1970s and ’80s, has died at age 86.

The Mayor of Pasadena, Texas, Jeff Wagner announced that the singer had died on Saturday while ‘surrounded by his loved ones.’

Gilley helped put the city near Houston on the map when he opened the football stadium–sized honky tonk Gilley’s Club there, which helped inspire the hit John Travolta film Urban Cowboy in 1980. 

Music legend: Mickey Gilley, the country music singer with a string of hits in the 1970s and ’80s, has died at age 86; seen in 2015

Gilley died in Branson, Missouri, where his Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre was located.

Although he was best known for his country music, the singer was a cousin of rock and roll royalty Jerry Lee Lewis. 

In 1970, he opened Gilley’s Club in Pasadena, which featured both a smaller club and a larger rodeo arena. The enormous venue eventually became known as ‘the world’s largest honky tonk.’

Namesake: In 1970, he opened Gilley's Club in Pasadena, which featured both a smaller club and a larger rodeo arena. The enormous venue eventually became known as 'the world’s largest honky tonk'; seen circa 1970

Namesake: In 1970, he opened Gilley’s Club in Pasadena, which featured both a smaller club and a larger rodeo arena. The enormous venue eventually became known as ‘the world’s largest honky tonk’; seen circa 1970

True life: The club inspired an Esquire article about a couple who spent time at the honky tonk, which in turn was the inspiration for the popular 1980 film Urban Cowboy, which starred John Travolta and Debra Winger (pictured)

True life: The club inspired an Esquire article about a couple who spent time at the honky tonk, which in turn was the inspiration for the popular 1980 film Urban Cowboy, which starred John Travolta and Debra Winger (pictured)

The club inspired an Esquire article about a couple who spent time at the honky tonk, which in turn was the inspiration for the popular 1980 film Urban Cowboy, which starred John Travolta and Debra Winger.

The film, which was a hit at the box office and with critics, was compared favorably to Travolta’s earlier movie Saturday Night Fever, though this time it focused on country music rather than disco.

The exact circumstances of the Mississippi native’s death have not been revealed.

Announced by Mayor: The Mayor of Pasadena, Texas, Jeff Wagner announced that the singer had died on Saturday while 'surrounded by his loved ones'

Announced by Mayor: The Mayor of Pasadena, Texas, Jeff Wagner announced that the singer had died on Saturday while ‘surrounded by his loved ones’

True talent: 'Mickey was a true musical talent who charted 42 singles in the Top 40 Country Charts over a span of two decades,' he added

True talent: ‘Mickey was a true musical talent who charted 42 singles in the Top 40 Country Charts over a span of two decades,’ he added

The announcement comes after Gilley’s recent tour date cancellations on May 1, due to health issues and energy levels that prevented him from being at 100 percent for his shows.

Wagner broke the news via a Facebook post, writing, ‘Pasadena has lost a true legend. Mickey Gilley passed away today, surrounded by his loved ones. 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,’ he went on.

Chart topper: He has earned numerous awards, including six ACM Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame; Pictured in 1980

Chart topper: He has earned numerous awards, including six ACM Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame; Pictured in 1980

‘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.’

Gilley made his chart topping debut with Is It Wrong For Loving You, and gained a total of 39 Top 10 hits, with 17 of those making it to the number one spot.

He has earned numerous awards and honors, including six ACM Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He was also inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame.

Mickey’s survived by his wife, Cindy Loeb Gilley, and his four children. 

Health issues: The announcement comes after Gilley's recent tour date cancellations on May 1, due to health issues and energy levels; Pictured June 12, 2015 in Nashville

Health issues: The announcement comes after Gilley’s recent tour date cancellations on May 1, due to health issues and energy levels; Pictured June 12, 2015 in Nashville

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