& Fortune: Mickey Gilley
No money headaches today
somebody who claims he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer, country singer
Mickey Gilley is very sharp businessman.
Classic country singer Mickey Gilley has accomplished
what most artists only dream of -- a long and fulfilling career marked by loyal
fans and financial success. Mickey's first musical influence as a boy growing
up in Ferriday, La., was his piano-pounding cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis. He grew up
close to Jerry Lee and another famous cousin, Jimmy Swaggart. Gilley scored his
first string of consecutive No. 1 hits in the mid-'70s -- "Roomful of Roses,"
"I Overlooked an Orchid," "City Lights," "Window Up Above,"
"Don't the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time" and "Bring It
on Home to Me." He performed traditional honky-tonk songs long before the
style returned to favor in Nashville. In the '80s, he became a smooth crooner
of country love songs -- "That's All That Matters To Me," "Headache
Tomorrow, Heartache Tonight," "I'm Just A Fool For Your Love,"
"Lonely Nights," "Put Your Dreams Away," "Paradise Tonight"
-- and distinctive updates of such romantic classics as "Stand By Me,"
"True Love Ways," "You Don't Know Me," "Talk to Me"
and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me."
achieved a remarkable 39 Top 10 country hits, with 17 of those songs reaching
the No. 1 spot on the country charts. In 1976, he swept the Academy of Country
Music Awards, hauling home trophies for Entertainer of the Year, Top Male Vocalist,
Song of the Year, Single of the Year and Album of the Year. He was ranked among
the top 50 country music hit-makers in the 1989 book written by Billboard record
research historian, Joel Whitburn.
One of the secrets behind
Mickey's longevity is his ability to balance the heart of an entertainer with
the brain of a businessman. He helped create Gilley's Club, the landmark Texas
nightclub in 1971. The forerunner of the Hard Rock Cafe and other theme restaurants,
it also helped elevate country music to new heights of popularity. Esquire Magazine
caught wind of the Pasadena nightclub and featured it in an article called "The
Ballad of the Urban Cowboy." Intrigued by the piece, Paramount Pictures contracted
to use Gilley's as the centerpiece of a motion picture with John Travolta.
as the "world's largest honky-tonk," Gilley's became the defining launching
pad for some of country music's biggest stars, and the dominating force behind
the Urban Cowboy craze that swept the country in the early '80s. Before the club
burned to the ground in 1989, Mickey had recorded the performances for his weekly
radio show, "Live From Gilley's," which was syndicated to 500 stations
from 1977 to 1989. When Mickey and his partner in the venture split up, Mickey
removed nearly 1,000 rolls of 24-track tapes from the premises, which saved them
from the fire that destroyed Gilley's. Released on QVC's Q Records, the first
four-CD set featured 56 songs, ranging from Willie Nelson, Rosanne Cash, Johnny
Lee and Ed Bruce to rock 'n rollers such as Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and
Fats Domino to some of the last performances of Ernest Tubb and Faron Young. QVC
plans to mine this mother lode of historic music for future CD releases.