PASADENA, Texas — Country music legend Mickey Gilley died on Saturday surrounded by family and close friends. He was 86-years-old.
The announcement comes after Gilley announced tour date cancellations on May 1, saying health issues and energy levels prevented him from being at 100 percent at his shows.
Gilley, whose career and business interests were synonymous with the Urban Cowboy movement of the 1980s, had a career that spanned seven decades and included musical hits like “Room full of roses,” and “Stand By Me,” and cameos in Urban Cowboy, the movie starring John Travolta and Debra Winger that was set at his Gilley’s nightclub.
Gilley was born March 9, 1936, in Natchez, Mississippi, and grew up in Ferriday, Louisiana. He learned to play piano at an early age. He learned the rockabilly style of playing from his first cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, who went on to form his own successful music career.
Not long after news of Gilley’s death was announced, condolences began to pour in from fans and peers, including Johnny Lee, whose award-winning music career was catapulted by Gilley and the Urban Cowboy soundtrack.
“I’m devastated, and it’s going to be tough going on without him, said Lee, a Texas City native. “I know he would want me to. I loved Mickey so much.”
Fellow country music legend Gene Watson, another Houston-area singer and songwriter also expressed his thoughts about Gilley’s passing.
“I'm so very sorry to learn that our good friend and incredible legend in country music, Mickey Gilley has passed,” 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."
Gilley’s music was popular on the radio, especially in the Houston area, long after the Urban Cowboy era had faded.
Rowdy Yates, who has played his hits throughout his career as a local radio host on KILT and Country Legends 97.1, remembered him as more than a local celebrity.
“Mickey Gilley was not just a gifted entertainer, but also a pop culture icon,” said Yates, a Texas Radio Hall of Fame member and national radio show host. “Not only did he create some of the most memorable country music for decades, but he turned a dingy night club in Pasadena, Texas into a live music Mecca that was known the world over.”
Pasadena Mayor Jeff Wagner gave the following statement in the announcement:
"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. 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."