Mickey Gilley

Mickey Gilley – born on March 9, 1936, in Natchez, Mississippi – was a country singer, musician, and entrepreneur who became one of the most influential country-pop crossover artists of the 1980s. Learning the basics of piano from his cousin, rock ‘n’ roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Gilley took his passion for music and invested all of his energy into becoming a singer and pianist. He released his first independent single, "Ooh Wee Baby,” in 1957 and followed that the following year by signing with Dot Records and releasing “Call Me Shorty.” He continued to release a series of singles throughout the first half of the 1960s, but they remained regional hits and he was unable to achieved national fame. Mickey Gilley released his debut album, Lonely Wine, in 1964. In 1968, he finally entered the Billboard Country Singles chart with “Now I Can Live Again,” which climbed to Number 68. In 1970, he opened the honky-tonk nightclub called Gilley’s. His first country music Number 1 single came six years later with the release of “Room Full of Roses” (1974) from the album of the same name. His next three singles – “I Overlooked an Orchid” (1974) “City Lights” (1974) and “Window Up Above” (1975) – also hit the top spot on the Country singles chart. He scored eleven Top 10 hits throughout the rest of the 1970s – “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time” (1976) and “Bring It On Home To Me” reached Number 1 – as well as charting with a series of hit albums. In 1980, the film Urban Cowboy, which was filmed inside his Gilley’s club, became an enormous hit and Mickey Gilley’s cover of “Stand By Me” became an enormous crossover success, reaching Number 1 on the country music chart, Number 3 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, and Number 22 on the Hot 100. He continued to chart throughout the first half of the 1980s, hitting the top spot seven more times but rarely straying outside of the Top 10 until 1987. At the same time, Urban Cowboy had inspired country clubs to open all across the US with Gilley’s becoming a popular franchise. He also collaborated with several artists during this period including Charly McClain, Ray Charles, and others. The 1990s were not as successful for Mickey Gilley and his musical output slowed down. Regardless of record sales, Mickey Gilley was still a popular live act and opened the Mickey Gilley Theatre in Branson, Missouri. Mickey Gilley died on May 7, 2022, at the age of 86.

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