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INTERVIEW – Country Legend MICKEY GILLEY, March 2014

| 27 March 2014 | Reply

Is it really a big story when a Country Music legend announces tour dates for the summer?  It will typically please most, and be newsworthy, but when that legend is none other than Mickey Gilley, it is miraculous and definitely worthy of attention.  The recently turned 78-year-old just announced tour dates for the summer of 2014, but the miracle lies in his return to the stage.  After a paralyzing accident in 2009 [while helping a friend move, Mickey was paralyzed when a sofa landed on top of him and crushed four vertebrae], Gilley has endured tons of physical therapy and is ready to grace the stage once again.  When offered a few minutes with the man himself, I couldn’t get the “Yes” out fast enough.  As rock music is my first love and forte, some of you may be asking yourself where the rock connection with Mickey Gilley is.  Let’s not forget, first of all, where rock came from.  Not to mention, this performer is cousins to one of rock n’ roll’s original bad boys, Jerry Lee Lewis.  Let’s not forget the mechanical bulls in his clubs, Gilley’s, which were the forerunner of Hard Rock Cafe and other similar themed restaurant..  Finally, Mickey was on the forefront of becoming a crossover artist from country to Billboard and Adult Contemporary charts.  And with no further hesitation…

Gilley Lavender

Toddstar: Hello Mr. Gilley.

Mickey: Todd.  Mickey Gilley.

Toddstar: How are you sir?

Mickey: Well I’m doing pretty good. I’m recovering slowly but surely, and I’m up walking so that’s a blessing in my part of the world.

Toddstar: I bet it is. First of all, let me say happy belated birthday, I missed you by a couple weeks there.

Mickey: Well I appreciate that. I just turned 78 and I tell the people don’t move any furniture when you get in your 70’s, call Two Men and a Truck.

Toddstar: Most people know about your accident by now, but let’s talk about what’s going on now. You’re going out on tour.

Mickey: I’m a workaholic; I’m doing four shows a week in my theater in Branson, Missouri. I’m keeping the weekends open; I’m going out and playing some dates with my friend Johnny Lee. I’m going also to play some casino performances. I’m just having a blast. I haven’t done this in a long time, but I cranked the old bus up, get the band on there, and we have little comradely there in the bus and talk about the music. I go out and I start to do the music and I see the people singing along with me; it warms my heart.

Toddstar: I bet it does, and you warm their hearts based on everything I’ve ever seen or heard.

Mickey: Well, like I said I’m a workaholic and I just enjoy performing.

Toddstar: That’s great. Any new music in the works coming from you at all?

Mickey: I haven’t made any recordings since the 90’s, but I talked to my, the guy that produced “Stand By Me” and all the songs I did in the 80’s. I talked to him the other day and I told him, I said, “You know what? We made some pretty good music together, is there any chance that we might get some of the songs that we performed together back in the 80’s re-released?” I ran across some material that, and some of the albums, that got over looked and they didn’t get any exposure. He said that he would talk to me about it, so who knows. I might get a chance to have some more material out on the circuit again, I don’t know. It’s just one of those things we have to work at.

Toddstar: That’d be great. You mentioned it, and in the early 80’s, you were one of the first big crossover artists.  You went from just country charts to all of a sudden hitting the Billboard 100 and the adult contemporary charts. Is that something, looking back, that you think was one of the pinnacles of your career musically?

Mickey: Well I think “Stand By Me” is what really launched me into a different category as far as the music was concerned. Up until that time people compared me to my cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis. Then when I started working with this producer, that did the film with me, The Urban Cowboy, and we did “Stand By Me.” The record company liked his production so well they decided to hire him to produce my future recordings. We made records through the 80’s that really took me out of my shadow of my cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, and put me at a different category. That is very rewarding to your truly, I don’t mind telling you.  I think I could have had better records if I hadn’t been on a party circuit for a long period of time there when I was making those recordings.  He would say, “Hey Gilley, I want you at ten o’ clock in the morning to start singing because your voice is a little bit lower then.” I said, “Hey wait minute, I don’t get through throwing up until noon.” He would say, you know what he said, “You need to concentrate a little bit more on your recordings.” If I had a done that I think I’d of been a little more successful. I don’t know if I could have been any more successful, but the bottom line is the people gave me 17 number one songs, I guess I should be happy with that.  At 78 I still enjoy going out and performing the songs for the folks.

Toddstar: I was going to say, you can’t complain success here, you’re 78 and still doing this. Look at how many don’t make it half that far.

Mickey: Well I’m going to hang around just like my friend Ray Price and George Jones, and hopefully if I make it that far, I’ll probably drop somewhere on the stage. If that’s the case, they can say the man went out doing what he loved to do.

Toddstar: There you go. You had a lot of highlights in your career Mickey. You’ve got a Hollywood Walk of Fame star, numerous awards from the Academy of Country Music like top new male vocalist, male vocalist of the year, and entertainer of the year. Most recently, back here a few years ago, you had the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame recognize your accomplishments. What are some of your personal highlights from your career?

Mickey: Well I got to play for two presidents; I got to do a USO tour, which was very rewarding to me. Receiving the star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was quite a thrill. I was mesmerized when they gave me all those awards at the Academy of Country Music Award Show back in the 70’s. The biggest thing that thrills me the most is when I go out and see the people singing along with me when I’m doing the music that they’ve listened to, and that really warms my heart more than anything else.  The fact is that we’ve been able to keep the Gilley phenomenon going. I got a place in Vegas called, Gilley’s at Treasure Island, and we’ve got the mechanical bull in there. We got two places in Oklahoma, Durant, Oklahoma and also Pocola, Oklahoma. We got Gilley’s at Choctaw Nations, they got mechanical bulls. We got one being built in Reno, Nevada actually just outside of Reno, and we got one in Dallas. It warms my heart to think that people are still interested in what I’ve done in the past.  Hopefully it’s not going to end any, any way soon. I’m hoping that I get back on the golf course in the spring, and I’ll be able to play golf in the spring and play the piano in the fall. At the present time I can’t play the piano, but when I go out and do the shows I got a seven piece band, two girls singers, and I’ve been getting a big bang out of what I’ve been doing.

Toddstar: I bet you have. Now it’s funny, but I heard a rumor that there may be a return of Gilley to Pasadena, Texas.

Mickey: I’m working on that and it’s on the drawing board, and I think that’s going to happen. Hopefully I’ll be able to make the announcement within the next three months. The bottom line is that, what I’m really thrilled bout too, on the 18th of April I’m introducing Gilley beer again in Pasadena.

Toddstar: Really?

Mickey: Yeah, so we’re going to have a Gilley beer again. I had, I sold American Pickers, I lived long enough to make the History channel, and I sold them a lot of pieces from the old night club Gilley’s, some beer cans, and boots and a lot of different things. I sold them a Gilley beer sign; then I got the idea, because an old boy called me from St. Louise and he says, “Well you sold that beer sign cheap, didn’t you Gilley.” I said, “I got 600 bucks for it.” He said, “I would have paid 1,000.” I said, “I’ll manufacture some more.”  I called the manufacturer up and I ordered 50 beer signs, I put them on my website for 495, that’s $495 dollars by the way. I put it on the website and we’ve sold quite of them. I got the idea I said, “You know what? Maybe I can get the beer reissued.” Contacted some brewers there in the Houston area, got [one of them 00:0718] so excited, and started getting the clubs and everything wanting to carry the Gilley beer again. Finally they called me up and they said, “you’ve got to slow down, we can’t manufacture, we can’t brew it that fast.”

Toddstar: Wow, that’s great.

Mickey: I’m going to introduce it on the 18th of April at a club in Pasadena.  We’ll be chatting about it, talking about it. I’m excited about that, and the beer is going to taste good too.

Toddstar: That’s the best part of any beer. You are about to celebrate 25 years in Branson. What does 25 years in Branson mean to you?

Mickey: It means that I’ve endured, I’m the last man standing, everybody is gone but me. I say, everybody is gone but me, we got a lot of wonderful shows in Branson, but we don’t have the national recognition that we had before. We had Bobby Benton, we had Charlie Pride, we had Wayne Newton, we had Mel Tillis, we had Boxcar Willie, Andy Williams; of course they’ve passed on, but everybody else got up and moved out. I’m the last person in Branson that’s still doing music, that’s got national recognition as far as recording is concerned. I’m very excited about that. On October the 5th we’re having a big party, and it’s going … we’re going to celebrate our 25th year in Branson.

Toddstar: From what I understand, already pretty close, if not, a sold out show.

Mickey: I think we’re going to do pretty good with that one. It’s because it’s special and a lot of the performers that have worked there at the theater before with me, they’ve, I think we’re getting commitments that they’re going to show up.

Toddstar: Very cool. Let’s take it back a few years, you mentioned it earlier, and you’ve worked your way to get back to where you’re out doing these tours and hitting the stage. How much of a motivation during all of your rehab, during everything that you’ve endured since 2009, how much was it just to get back on that stage, how much of that was motivation?

Mickey: Well I think that I’m a positive thinker, I don’t try to let negative thoughts come into my mind, if somebody says you can’t do something. I always feel that if you try hard enough you can pull off anything you want to. My goal now is to get back on the golf course in the spring, play the piano in the fall. When I make both goals, I know I’m going to make one of them, but I don’t know which one it’ll be, but I’m going to try my best to do both of them. If I don’t, I’m going to continue trying; I’m not going to give up. I want to play the piano again for the folks and I want to play golf again, it’s one of my passions.  I am very fortunate because the doctors, what I found out from the nurse is when I, after I fell, a little bit later on the nurses came and told me. They said that we really thought you’d never walk, that you’d be in a wheelchair the rest of your life. I’m up walking, and I’m having the time of my life. In fact, I’m having more fun now than I did when I was having the success in the 80’s.

Toddstar: That’s the best piece of it. Listen, I know you’re a busy man so I’ve got one more for you before I let you go, if you don’t mind.

Mickey: Okay.

Toddstar: At this point, what is the meaning of like for you Mickey?

Mickey: Well it means that as long as my health holds up, I’m going to continue playing the music that I love and enjoy. I made a statement the other day; I’m going to try to stay as long as my friend, Ray Price and George Jones. If I can, if I can do that I’ll be a happy camper. I try to live under the thought that … I used to close my show with telling people, folks live every day like it’s your last because one of these days it’s going to be and I’m going to try to live it up to that.

Toddstar: Excellent. Well I thank you so much for your time today. I will tell you of all the interviews I’ve ever done, this is the first one I was ever a bit nervous for before I jumped on the phone.

Mickey: Oh, well hey, hey thanks for chatting with me. If you get down to Branson I’d like for you to come to see the show. I’m doing Down Memory Lane with Mickey Gilley from the 50’s to the 90’s. I think you’ll have a good time with it.

Toddstar: Sounds good to me Mickey, and hopefully you can bring that show to Detroit soon.

Mickey: I would love too, and I think if I did, I think the people would get a kick out of it. It’s a pretty interesting story line, and a lot of people don’t know this, but my first chart record in Houston, Kenny Rogers played the bass on it.

Toddstar: Really?

Mickey: I recorded, “Is It Wrong For Loving You” in 1959. If you ever run in, and you have a chat with Kenny Rogers, ask him about it. I recorded a song for his brother Leland Rogers, and it was my first chart record, “Is It Wrong” Kenny played the ole’ stand-up bass. He was with the Bobby Doyle Trio in Houston at that time. That’s a little musical trivia for you.

Toddstar: If I ever get the chance, I will definitely throw that his way. Again, thank you so much for your time and enjoy the rest of your day Mickey.

Mickey: Hey, thanks for having me.  God bless you, bye.

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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