One week after the passing of NAOMI JUDD (NET NEWS 5/2), the Country music industry was rocked by the loss of another prominent figure when singer and actor MICKEY GILLEY died in BRANSON, MO on SATURDAY, MAY 7th at the age of 86 (NET NEWS 5/7).
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No cause of death was shared. GILLEY had just finished performing 10 shows in APRIL, but had posted a message to fans on social media on MAY 1st apologizing for cancelling all MAY dates at his theater in BRANSON, saying, “The last couple weeks, my energy level and some health issues have kept me from being 100% at my shows. So, I’ve been seeking doctors to get me back on track.” He also wrote, “I hope to be reenergized, healthy and back in full swing to see you at our shows soon.”
GILLEY charted 46 singles between 1968 and 1989, with his career taking off in earnest in 1974 when he scored the first of what was to become 17 #1 singles, “Room Full Of Roses.” In addition to his chart-toppers, he notched 17 more Top 10 hits in his career.
He dominated the ACADEMY OF COUNTRY MUSIC AWARDs in 1976, winning for both Male Vocalist and Entertainer of the Year, as well as Album of the Year (“Gilley’s Smoking” on PLAYBOY RECORDS) Single of the Year (“Bring It On Home”) and Song of the Year (“Don’t The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time”).
GILLEY opened the massive GILLEY’S nightclub in PASADENA, TX in 1971 (later a chain), and appeared as himself in the 1980 film “Urban Cowboy,” which was partially shot there. That helped launch an acting career that included roles on such television series as “Murder, She Wrote,” “Fantasy Island,” “The Fall Guy” and “Dukes Of Hazzard.” He was inducted into the TEXAS COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME in 2011.
Fellow Country artists, particularly those from his era, have been remembering GILLEY with tributes all weekend. JOHNNY LEE, who, like GILLEY, played himself in “Urban Cowboy,” said, “My heart will forever break over the loss of my dear friend MICKEY GILLEY. He believed in me when no one else did … He loved his fans more than anything in the world and taught me everything I needed to know about Country music.”
Country legend JEANNIE SEELY said, “My heart is broken at the loss of MICKEY. I treasure all the times we got to work together, and there were never enough. He and JOHNNY LEE brought a new dimension to Country music with the ‘Urban Cowboy’ trend and brought new fans to the genre. Whether it was a boogie or a ballad, MICKEY made it his own, no matter how many times it had been done before, and it would become my favorite version. He was loved and respected, and he will be so greatly missed.”
Said CRYSTAL GAYLE, “I started out my career opening for MICKEY. He was such a great person and entertainer. I have loved him ever since.”
And hit songwriter KENT BLAZY called him “a true legend and star. Cousin to JERRY LEE LEWSIS (who taught him to play piano) and JIMMY SWAGGART, he was versed in Gospel, the Blues, Country and Pop, and he wove it all into his own unique sound. His bar, GILLEY’S, basically started the ‘Urban Cowboy’ movement … Thanks for the music, MICKEY.”