Catching Up With Mickey Gilley (2004)

Imagine how different the world would be if back in the early '70s, chart-topping singer Mickey Gilley had gone with his instincts and decided not to put a mechanical bull in Gilley's, his Texas nightclub.

"I thought there'd be too many lawsuits," remembers Mickey. But he threw caution to the wind, put up a sign that read, RIDE AT YOUR OWN RISK—and the rest is history.

The original Gilley's opened in 1971 and launched the Urban Cowboy craze after serving as the setting for the 1980 movie of the same title. While the club closed in 1989 and later burned down, a scaled-down version opened in Las Vegas.

Now, Gilley's is back in Texas—this time, in Dallas.

"I was very excited when Johnny Lee and I lit up the new sign," beams Mickey. "It was nice to see it rise from the ashes again." (Johnny, a house headliner at Gilley's club when Urban Cowboy became a hit movie, soon moved on to his own solo stardom.)

Gilley's was in the spotlight yet again when a stage musical version of Urban Cowboy opened on Broadway earlier this year. Unfortunately, the show closed before Mickey saw it. "To tell the truth, I didn't intend to go," says Mickey. "I didn't want to go to New York!"

Though he still calls Pasadena home, Mickey spends most of his time in Branson performing at his Mickey Gilley Theatre. "I do two shows a day, five days a week," says Mickey. "I play golf every day it doesn't rain. Then on Friday I fly to Texas."

Literally—Mickey actually pilots his twin-engine plane himself. He even dodged a near-catastrophe recently when his appendix ruptured moments before takeoff. "I just folded up like a dollar bill," he recalls. "If I'd been in the air, I don't know that I could have landed the plane. The pain was excruciating."

Now recovered and fit as a fiddle, Mickey has recently released two new records: 16 Biggest Hits, a greatest-hits collection, including "Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" and "She's Pulling Me Back Again," and Invitation Only, a CD of previously unreleased songs that Mickey calls his "lost tapes" record.

"I don't care if they play these songs on the radio or not," laughs Mickey. "I'm going to use them to spice up my show. I'm not really looking for another hit."

One thing Mickey always looks for—Urban Cowboy on TV. "Every time they show that movie it's like a two-hour commercial for Gilley's!" exclaims Mickey. "I'll never get tired of that."

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