Growing up with Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Lee Lewis as cousins, music was bound to rub off on you. Even though Mickey Gilley’s career started in the shadows of his famous cousins, Gilley’s own legend grew with the opening of the club billed as the “world’s largest honky tonk.” The club and the music inspired the movie Urban Cowboy and today the legend lives on in his new home in Branson, Missouri.

Born in 1936 , Mickey Gilley was born in Natchez, Mississippi and later moved to New Orleans , where he and his cousins played boogie and gospel music. His cousin, the infamous Jerry Lee Lewis, had hit the top of the charts in the early fifties and in 1958 Gilley recorded “Call Me Shorty” which sold well. In the sixties, he began playing bars and clubs and in 1967 recorded Down The Line, his first album. Gilley had managed to garner a large following in Pasadena, Texas, where he would later open his famous club, Gilley’s. Other Gilley hits to follow included “City Lights”, “Bring it on Home to Me” and “She’s Pulling Me Back Again.”

Gilley’s honky tonk was opened in 1970 and little did he know what was in store for him. By 1974 Mickey Gilley was creeping out from his cousins shadows and recorded “Room Full Of Roses” that went to the top of the country charts and made the top 50 on the pop charts. The club and Gilley’s music career took off after an article in Esquire magazine entitled “The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy and America’s Search for True Grit.”

In 1980, the movie Urban Cowboy was released by Paramount Pictures, starring John Travolta and Debra Winger. His remake of the song “Stand By Me” rocketed to the top of the country charts and pop charts as well. In 1983 Gilley had three number one country hits including “Fool For your Love,” “Paradise Tonight” and “Talk To Me.” The club became a launching pad for country music’s biggest stars.

George Strait, Randy Travis and the Judds all performed at Gilley’s. It was a very good ride and in 1990 the mechanical bull, El Toro stopped bucking and the party ended when Gilley’s honky tonk burned to the ground.

Gilley’s last Top 40 hit was “She Reminded Me of You” and it went all the way to 27th on the charts.

Gilley has recorded 17 number one country hits and today can be found in his new home in Branson, Missouri, where he still performs today despite a terrible accident a few years ago that made him unable to play the piano.

In 2002, along with Swaggart and Lewis, Gilley was inducted into the Delta Music Hall of Fame. He also has his very own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, California. No longer under the shadows of his famous cousins.

Jerry Lee Lewis was a huge influence because I saw what he was doing and knew that I can do it too, so I threw my hat in the ring. People started accusing me of copying him but it didn’t matter to me because I enjoyed what I was doing. The tipping points in my career which fueled my success was opening Gilley’s and starting a television show and later the film the Urban Cowboy with John Travolta, because after the film it became an infomercial for Gilley’s.

I opened the Mickey Gilley Theatre in Branson because it was becoming a country music mecca and I got to the point in my career where I could stay in one place instead of taking the music to the people. When I built my Theatre it allowed people to come to Branson to hear the music.

I didn’t write any of my music, all of it was written by other writers.

Some of the artists I enjoy are Alan Jackson, George Strait, Garth Brooks, Carrie Underwood, Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire, The Judds, and Shania Twain to name a few.

The most interesting or little known part of your life was being the host of the television show, revising the old Gilley’s place with a new look and doing it out of Branson at Gilley’s Texas Cafe with my co host Delena Ditto. Also we are still continuing our brand across the county in Durant Oklahoma, Dallas Texas, Las Vegas Nevada, and Hollywood Florida.

I was paralyzed from the neck down in 2009, but made a miraculous recovery in less than a year’s time. I wanted to do the two things I love in life and that is playing music and playing golf and I’m trying to get my health back so I can do both.