Mickey Gilley Dies at 86: Country Music Fans Mourn the Honky Tonk Icon’s Death

by Amy Myers

Yesterday, the country music community lost honky tonk icon, Mickey Gilley, at the age of 86. Throughout Gilley’s long life, he not only transformed the music genre but also touched many communities and lives along the way. Following his death, country fans are mourning the loss of such a great musician and part of American culture. Gilley was also known for his own legendary honky tonk, Gilley’s Dallas, which was the center of the John Travolta-Debra Winger film, Urban Cowboy, in 1978.

Gilley passed away in his home in Branson, Missouri on Saturday, May 7. He had just completed a ten-show tour in April. His cause of death is still unknown.

Among the first to pay tribute to Mickey Gilley was the mayor of Pasadena, California, Jeff Wagner.

“Pasadena has lost a true legend. Mickey Gilley passed away today surrounded by his loved one. It was my great honor to know this man most of my life,” Wagner shared in a post on Facebook. “Mickey was a true musical talent who charted 42 singles in the Top 40 Country Charts over a span of two decades.”

Meanwhile, fellow fans of Gilley shared the mayor’s sentiments on Twitter.

“Our dear friend Mickey Gilley has passed,” talk show host Michael Berry wrote. “So much of Houston/Pasadena’s history, country music, Urban Cowboy, workin man’s blues & a wonderful time in my life encapsulated in that man.”

One fan paid tribute to the star with a line from one of his hits from 1976, “RIP Mickey Gilley. May you forever see that the Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time.”

Another shared, “I’m absolutely heartbroken about this! I’ve loved Mickey Gilley since Urban Cowboy came out, then I met him at his show in Branson and fell madly in love with him! My husband and I went to a second show on the same day just so we could see him again.”

Fellow Music Stars Remember Mickey Gilley

Country star T. G. Sheppard, who topped music charts in the 80s, was among those who were lucky enough to know Gilley personally.

“Just when I think my heart can’t take anymore loss, I get the news that my dear close friend Mickey Gilley has passed,” Sheppard said. “He truly altered the course of country music. I was fortunate to have gotten to see one of his last concerts 3 weeks ago. Prayers for Cindy, family and his fans.”

Likewise, country hall-of-famers The Oak Ridge Boys wrote, “Just heard that MIKEY GILLEY has just passed away … wow … another singing friend has gone home … Bye Mickey … until the day.”

Even the Grand Ole Opry dedicated a message to Gilley, promising, “During tonight’s Opry show, we took a moment to recognize Mickey Gilley and his contributions to country music. You’ll be missed, Mickey.”