Mickey Gilley, Country Singer and Actor, Dies at 86

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Mickey Gilley, in an undated photo (Courtesy of Mickey Gilley Enterprises)

Country singer and actor Mickey Gilley, known for launching the “Urban Cowboy” movement in country music and hit songs including “Stand By Me,” “Room Full of Roses” and “Lonely Nights,” died Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Branson, Missouri. The news of his death at age 86 was announced by his publicist, Zach Farnum. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Gilley had just come off of the road, having played ten shows in April. He passed peacefully with his family and close friends by his side.

Gilley, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, influenced generations of country singers for decades with his signature, haunting combination of Louisiana rhythm and blues and country-pop crossover melodies. He grew up with his two famous cousins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, surrounded by the influence of music and earned 39 Top 10 hits and 17 #1 songs throughout his career.

In 1971, Gilley opened his world-famous honky-tonk Gilley’s in Pasadena, Tex., which sparked a chain of the famous nightclubs.

The son of Arthur Fillmore Gilley and Irene (Lewis) Gilley, 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.” Hits “Chains of Love,” “Honky Tonk Memories,” “She’s Pulling Me Back Again,” and the rollicking “Don’t All the Girls Get Prettier at Closing Time” followed as his honky-tonk gave way to the more progressive countrypolitan.

In 1980, Gilley splashed into pop culture when he appeared in the box-office hit movie Urban Cowboy alongside John Travolta, Debra Winger and Johnny Lee, who earned a crossover hit with “Lookin’ For Love” in the film. Gilley’s served as the backdrop for the film, which helped launch his acting career and put his music career on a whole new level.

Upon hearing of his death, Lee wrote, “My heart will forever break over the loss of my dear friend Mickey Gilley. He believed in me when no one else did. Losing Gilley feels like a bad dream and sadly it’s not. He loved his fans more than anything in the world and taught me everything I needed to know about country music. He always told me if I thought it was going to rain, to always grab my umbrella.”

Crystal Gayle also paid tribute. “I am heartbroken by the passing of Mickey Gilley,” she said. “I started out my career opening for Mickey. He was such a great person and entertainer. I have loved him ever since.”

Gilley went on to appear in popular television series including Murder, She Wrote, The Fall Guy, Fantasy Island and Dukes of Hazzard.

Gilley was widely recognized for his work in music and movies, earning numerous accolades, including six Academy of Country Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He was one of only a handful of artists to receive the Academy of Country Music’s Triple Crown Awards.

Gilley was preceded in death by his wife, Vivian. He is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, four children, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren and his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart.

Related: Musicians and celebrities we’ve lost in 2022

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  1. Timflyte
    #1 Timflyte 8 May, 2022, 00:17

    So sad to hear this. What a great performer .

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