Mickey Gilley was born in Natchez, Mississippi in 1936 and grew up in nearby Ferriday, Louisiana. He grew up alongside his two famous cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. It was here where his love of music grew by sneaking up to the windows of clubs to absorb the haunting sound of Louisiana rhythm and blues.
Mickey learned to play piano at an early age but did not achieve the success like his cousin Jerry Lee until later. He moved to Houston, Texas to work construction but at night he played in the local club scene. He recorded his first song in Memphis for Dot Records and later performed as a singer and pianist in cities throughout the south. Eventually, his career path returned him to the Pasadena area where he began performing at the Nesadel Club and quickly developed into one of the city's most popular acts.
In 1971 along with a business partner he opened Gilley's. The club would grow and one day be known as the world's largest honky-tonk. It was here that Mickey started experiencing his first success when he released "Room Full of Roses". By the mid-seventies his songs were hitting the country charts with regularity.
The Urban Cowboy
As the eighties neared, Gilley's was growing bigger with every day. Country music's biggest stars used the club as a launching pad. A television show was developed which only added to the phenomenon. But it was when Esquire Magazine caught wind of the excitement and featured an article called "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy" that caused Gilley's to develop into an urban cowboy craze.
With the club rising in popularity so did Mickey's. He released hit after hit from "City Lights", I Overlooked an Orchard", and "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time"; all reaching number one on the Billboard country Charts. People started to take notice of the phenomenon on a national level. Paramount decided to make a movie about the craze and cast John Travolta and Debrah Winger to play the parts.
The Movie was a success and Gilley's flourished. The soundtrack that featured many popular artists including a huge hit by Mickey, "Stand By Me", went platinum and Mickey became a household name.