performing. Two years ago while helping a friend move a piece of
furniture, he fell down a flight of stairs leaving himself paralyzed from
the neck down. Through a little luck and hard work Gilley is back on the
road and will kick off his first tour since his near fatal fall, this
Friday, May 27 at the Leelanau Sands Showroom.
I have been back performing at my theater in Branson, Missouri for a few
months now. I am excited and ready to get back out on the road, said
Mickey Gilley. It has been a tough road back but I have a sense of humor
about it. In fact I tell people at my show dont call me if they want
something moved -- call Two Men and a Truck.
Gilleys rise to the top of the charts in the late 70s and early 80s
helped to usher in the Urban Cowboy era of the country music scene. The
popular John Travolta movie of the same name was filmed in large part at
Gilleys honky tonk Texas bar. During a nine-year run from 1974 to 1983,
Gilley had 17 number one country songs and 39 songs in the Top 10 on the
I have been in this entertainment and music business for over 50 years
but it took me 20 years before I made it, said Gilley. It is funny how
it works, I mean I am luckier than most having about 10 years of topping
the charts. Today I focus on entertaining and performing versus
Gilley, 75, grew up in Ferriday, Louisiana located in the heart of Delta
Blues country. As a child he would sneak off with his cousins Jimmy
Swaggert (televangelist), and one of the founders of rock and roll music
Jerry Lee Lewis, and peer into the windows of blues clubs.
All three of us were taken in by that music; all three of us are the same
age. In fact we all started playing the piano together, said Gilley. Of
course Jerry Lee hit it big first and then Jimmy with his ministry. I just
kept plugging along.
When Gilley did hit the big time he and Lewis got together several times
and performed together. Check out YouTube to see videos of them jamming.
I am still not able to play the piano as a result of the accident. I have
to sit down at my shows right now and sing. I do get up and sing the
duets, but someone else plays my piano parts, said Gilley. People have
been coming up to me and telling me that my singing is better now than
when I originally recorded these songs. I think the reason why is I dont
have to concentrate on playing the piano.
Gilley has no plans of giving up playing the piano forever, however.
My goal is to be back playing the piano by fall; before that my immediate
goal is to play golf. Before the accident I was playing 18 to 36 holes a
day three or four times a week. I tried playing last week and had to quit
after one hole, said Gilley. But I am improving everyday. When the
accident first happened I was paralyzed from the neck down for three
months. I was so depressed that I wanted my life to end because I have
always been an active person. Now I am back performing and loving life
Gilleys enthusiasm sounds more like a newcomer to the industry versus
that of an old-timer.
I am energized by the fans, since I came back they have been filling up
my theater in Branson. They have been giving me standing ovations every
night. I play three nights a week there, said Gilley. I am ready to get
out on tour. I plan to play as many of my hits as possible on this tour.
In fact I am shortening some of these songs so I can play more of them
each night. I feel I have a very entertaining show for the people, I will
tell some funny stories and talk about the history behind the songs.
Gilley spent his career focusing on his piano playing, singing and
performing, leaving the songwriting to others.
I never thought of myself as a writer and I always relied on others who
have mastered that craft, he said. I believe there are three elements
that go into recording a hit song. The first is having the right song,
the second is your presentation of the song, and the third is having the
right arrangement of the song, and that all sounds easier than it really
As for Gilley, picking a favorite song of his is a tough one.
The best song ever handed to me Dont the Girls All Get Prettier at
Closing Time. The song that is nearest to my heart is Room Full Of
Roses, because after struggling in this business for 20 years I finally
had my first number one song. It broke the ice for me, said Gilley.
Certainly the whole Urban Cowboy movie thing has been a highlight for
me as well.
Gilleys club is still going strong 40 years later, just in a new location.
My original club, the one where Urban Cowboy was filmed in Pasadena,
Texas burned down. I reopened in Dallas and it is doing great and we have
another one in Las Vegas also doing well, he said. I have been
approached by a group that wants to put a couple of Gilleys in Florida
and who knows, maybe we will open one up in Traverse City.
Mickey Gilley was among the first of the major country stars to jump on
the Branson, Missouri country music bandwagon opening his theater there
22 years ago.
Branson has been great. I have had a great run here. The economy and gas
prices have slowed things down the past few years but the community is
resilient and there are a lot of great shows going on there still.
Gilley credits a commitment to physical therapy, working out three days
a week and acupuncture for his quick healing.
I am able to walk by myself, even walk up and down stairs, he said. I
am moving slow but I am getting there. While I cant play the piano right
now I am able to sign my name. I really enjoy catching up with the people
after the show and talking to them and signing autographs.
Some have asked Gilley why after 50 years and his serious accident that he
People ask me all the time why dont I retire and I say I dont have
anything else I can do. This really is the only thing I know how to do, to
sing and entertain people. I am so excited to come to the Leelanau Sands
to put on a show for the people up there in Northern Michigan, it has been
a long time since I have been up that way and I know Michigan is a great
music state so I cant wait.
For info on Mickey Gilley go to his website www.gilleys.com and for
tickets and show information for his May 27 appearance at the Leelanau
Sands Showroom go to www.casino2win.com or call the box office at