Mickey Gilley

Mickey Gilley made his mark remaking vintage country and pop ballads and opening massive nightclubs in Pasadena, Texas, and later in Branson, Missouri, and Dallas, Texas.

Birth: March 9, 1936
Birthplace: Natchez, Mississippi

Among the artist’s many hit singles: “Room Full of Roses,” “I Overlooked an Orchid,” “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time,” and “Bring It on Home to Me.”

Mickey Leroy Gilley comes from a famous family. His first cousin Jimmy Swaggart became a controversial TV evangelist, and another first cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, became a rock & roll pioneer and later a country star.

In 1970, millionaire Sherwood Cryer talked Gilley into becoming partners in a Pasadena, Texas nightclub they named GILLEY’S. Up to then, Gilley had recorded briefly for Dot Records and had lived in Louisiana and Mississippi before moving to Pasadena. In 1974 he recorded a single on his own Astro label, pairing the 1964 Patsy Cline hit “She Called Me Baby (All Night Long)” and the 1949 George Morgan classic “Room Full of Roses.” When the latter started getting airplay, Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Records rereleased the disc, and “Room Full of Roses” became Gilley’s first #1 country hit in 1974.

Sixteen more #1 recordings followed for Playboy and later for Epic Records, including “I Overlooked an Orchid” (1974), “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time” (1976), “True Love Ways,” “Stand by Me,” and “That’s All That Matters” (all in 1980), and a duet with Charly McClain, “Paradise Tonight” (1983).

After becoming ACM’s Top New Male Vocalist of 1974, Gilley experienced his biggest year of accolades in 1976, winning four ACM awards: Entertainer of the Year, Top Male Vocalist, Single of the Year (“Bring It on Home to Me”), and Album of the Year (Gilley’s Smoking).

Gilley parted acrimoniously from Cryer in the late 1980s; a Houston court awarded Gilley $17 million in damages from Cryer in July 1988, and the club closed in 1989. Soon, however, Gilley was back in business — this time launching the Mickey Gilley Theater in Branson on April 27, 1990. Its success led to the opening of the adjacent Gilley’s Texas Cafe in 1992 and the founding of another Gilley’s Texas Cafe in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in 1995. In 2003 the star opened a new Gilley’s nightclub serving the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.

In his spare time Gilley acted on the TV series Murder, She Wrote; Fantasy Island; CHiPs; The Fall Guy; and The Dukes of Hazzard. — Don Rhodes

— Adapted from the Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum’s Encyclopedia of Country Music, published by Oxford University Press.

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