BRANSON, Mo. (WKRN) – Country music singer and actor Mickey Gilley died Saturday at the age of 86 in Branson, Missouri, according to a press release.
Gilley was known for launching the Urban Cowboy movement in country music as well as hit songs like “Stand By Me,” “Room Full of Roses” and “Lonely Nights.” His death comes after playing ten shows on the road in April; he died peacefully with his family and close friends by his side.
A native of Natchez, Mississippi, Gilley influenced generations of country music singers over several decades. He was known for his 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, and earned 39 Top 10 hits and 17 No. 1 songs throughout his career.
Gilley opened his famous honky-tonk Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas in 1971, sparking a chain of the famous nightclubs.
Aside from music, Gilley took a prominent role in the hit movie “Urban Cowboy” in 1980, alongside John Travolta, Debra Winger and Johnny Lee, molding Gilley into a significant figure in pop culture. Gilley’s served as the backdrop for the film, which helped launch his acting career and skyrocketed his music career to a whole new level.
Gilley went on to star in popular television series including “Murder She Wrote,” “The Fall Guy,” “Fantasy Island” and “Dukes of Hazzard.”
His accolades include six Academy of Country Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and induction into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011, becoming 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, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, four grandchildren, nine great grandchildren and his cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart.
Musician Brandon Giles remembers Gilley as both a mentor and a friend.
“He was a kindhearted man that really helped younger artists coming up. He gave me his theater in Branson for a week to record some shows and did a lot. For a musical legend and hero like that of mine to take interest and compliment and encourage me was overwhelming,” Giles said.
On Saturday, Giles honored Gilley by playing several of his songs while on the road in Pensacola, Fla.
Gilley’s death came exactly one week after the loss of Naomi Judd.
“That generation when there wasn’t the pitch correction and dance lessons. And you sank or swam when you were of that era,” Giles explained. “The old school entertainers and musicians are dying out and it’s heartbreaking to see. A lot of good new ones coming up, but it’s sad to see such legends go.”
Between his acting career, theater operation, and music, Giles remembers Gilley as a marketing genius with an entrepreneurial spirit.
“It was heartbreaking to lose such a legend of that era that we probably won’t see again,” Giles said.