One of Ferriday’s favorite sons died Saturday, as Mickey Gilley passed away at the age of 86.
“It’s a tremendous loss,” said Ferriday-born entertainer Linda Gail Lewis by phone Monday from her home in Austin, Tx. “We are devastated.”
Linda Gail, Jerry Lee’s younger sister, is still performing concerts in the United States and overseas.
Mickey, Jimmy (Swaggart) and Jerry Lee (Lewis) were really, really close,” Linda Gail said. “It’s a sad time for all of us.”
“I was shocked,” said former Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland, who is first cousin with Gilley, Lewis and Swaggart and lived with Gilley’s parents before he married, “I went to see him at L’auberge in Baton Rouge last year and talked to him not long ago. He loved Ferriday. He was a legend. And to still be doing so well in that industry.”
Former Ferriday Glen McGlothin said Gilley would do anything if possible for Ferriday.
“It breaks my heart,” McGlothin said. “I’ve been knowing all three all my life. Even when he had his accident (falling down some stairs helping a neighbor move), he never let it get him down. He loved what he did, and he loved to entertain. And he came to Ferriday every time we asked him.”
According to a spokesperson of Gilley’s, Gilley died at Cox South in Springfield, Missouri after being diagnosed with bone cancer. He had also developed complications, including pneumonia and kidney failure. A memorial service in Branson will take place at a future date that has not been determined yet.
Gilley sold the famous theater on West 76 Country Boulevard that still bears his name several years ago.
Other acts now also call the theater home, but Gilley still performed there and was scheduled to team up with his close friend Johnny Lee for their “Urban Cowboys Ride Again” show on Sunday night.
Gilley made several trips to Ferriday and performed in concerts in 2010 and with his band in 2012 at the Vidalia Conference and Convention Center.
At that concert, Secretary of State Tom Schedler presented a proclamation designating Aug. 1 as Mickey Gilley Day in Louisiana and designated Gilley as an honorary Louisiana Secretary of State.
Gilley was among the first inductees into the Delta Music Museum Hall of Fame in 2002 along with Lewis, Swaggart and Leon “Pee Wee” Whitaker.
Gilley was known for launching the Urban Cowboy movement in Country music and hit songs including "Stand By Me," "Room Full of Roses" and "Lonely Nights.”
Gilley passed peacefully with his family and close friends by his side.
Gilley influenced generations of country singers for decades with his signature, haunting combination of Louisiana rhythm and blues and country-pop crossover melodies. He grew up with his two famous cousins, Lewis and Swaggart, surrounded by the influence of music and earned 39 Top 10 hits and 17 No. 1 songs throughout his career.
In 1971, Gilley opened his world-famous honky-tonk Gilley's in Pasadena, Texas, which sparked a chain of the famous nightclubs.
The son of Arthur Fillmore Gilley and Irene (Lewis) Gilley, Gilley learned how to play piano from Lewis and dabbled in boogie-woogie and gospel music early in his career before finding his professional footing in the '70s with "Room Full of Roses." Hits "Chains of Love," "Honky Tonk Memories," "She's Pulling Me Back Again," and "Here Comes the Hurt Again" followed as his honky-tonk gave way to the more progressive countrypolitan.
In 1980, Gilley splashed into pop culture when he appeared in the smash hit movie "Urban Cowboy" alongside John Travolta, Debra Winger and Johnny Lee. Gilley's served as the backdrop for the film, which helped launch his acting career and put his music career on a whole new level. Gilley went on to star in popular television series including "Murder She Wrote," "The Fall Guy," "Fantasy Island" and "Dukes of Hazzard."
Gilley was widely recognized for his work in music and movies, earning numerous accolades, including six Academy of Country Music Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2011. He was one of only a handful of artists to receive the Academy of Country Music's Triple Crown Awards.
Gilley was preceded in death by his wife, Vivian. He is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, four grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.