Two country music legends will bring their Urban Cowboy show to Crockett on Saturday.
Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee reunited two years ago for the Urban Cowboy Reunion Tour. The musical icons, and friends, co-headline the show at the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association at the Crockett Civic Center, 1100 Edmiston Drive.
For this event, the PWFAA is brining in a mechanical bull and a beer garden that will open at 6 p.m. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m.
With 25 No. 1 singles between them, Gilley and Lee have ridden the Urban Cowboy for five decades.
The movie was good not only good for their career, but also country music and western fashion.
Urban Cowboy, a cult classic filmed in 1980, starred John Travolta and Debra Winger.
It’s about a country boy who moves to Pasadena for work. He starts hanging out at the infamous Gilley’s nightclub where he falls for a cowgirl. The story revolves around the Texas City oil-scene, Houston night-life, and Gilley’s, where real-life Gilleyrats – as they affectionately called themselves – spend their nights dancing, drinking beer and riding El Toro, the bar’s famed mechanical bull.
The two marry, but their relationship is rocky due to the cowboy’s traditional view of gender rolls. Jealousy sparks when a con man, played by Scott Glenn, enters the mix. Despite a separation and other set-backs, the cowboy plans to win back his wife by triumphing at Gilley’s mechanical bull-riding competition.
Mickey Gilley was the owner of the Pasadena honkey-tonk featured in the movie that was open from 1971 to 1989. Gilley’s was a huge building with a corrugated steel roof that housed multiple bars. It was connected to a small rodeo arena which hosted both bicycle and motorcycle races on Friday and Saturday nights. It was the first entertainment establishment with a mechanical bull to ride. The club was run by Gilley’s friend and business partner, Sherwood Cryer.
The film’s screenplay was based on an article in Esquire Magazine, written by Aaron Latham, about a romance between two Gilley’s regulars – Dew Westbrook and Betty Helmer.
The film grossed almost $47 million in the United States.
The bar closed in 1989, after a falling-out between Gilley and Cryer. A fire that gutted the interior in 1990 was attributed to arson.
“It was the best and worst thing that ever happened to me,” Gilley said of the bar. “The movie garnered a lot of attention for my career, but Sherwood ran it into the ground at the end. I had to close it before it derailed my reputation.”
A new Gilley’s bar opened in 2003 in Cedars, Dallas. This club features a 26,000-square-foot main show room and the original mechanical bull, El Toro, featured in the Urban Cowboy movie. The 91,000-square-foot club includes a restaurant, entertainment, meeting, and private function space. There are two more Gilley’s in Oklahoma. Gilley hopes another will be built in Pasadena.
Gilley is the cousin of both Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. He credits Jerry Lee for both his career in music and his talent on the piano.
“When we were growing up, Jerry Lee was a natural at the piano and taught me to play,” said Mickey. He inspired me to quit my construction job and start singing. I was making $1.25 an hour, and I could see Jerry Lee was doing pretty well for himself.”
Gilley is still close to Jerry Lee and recently visited him at him home in Mississippi.
Success didn’t come overnight for Gilley. Throughout the 1960s, Gilley played the clubs and bars, garnering a following in the Pasedana, Texas area, where he would open Gilley’s.
His debut chart-topper was, “Is It Wrong for Loving You.”
He's had 39 Top-10 country hits, with 17 of those reaching No. 1 on the country charts.
He’s been the ACM Entertainer of the Year, also garnering Song of the Year, Single of the Year, and Album of the Year honors.
The soundtrack to Urban Cowboy, featuring Stand By Me, would give Mickey’s career a second go-around, turning him into a pop-country crossover success.
Johnny Lee spent 10 years with Mickey Gilley, touring and playing at Gilley’s. It was Urban Cowboy that catapulted Lee into fame with his songs “Lookin’ for Love” and “Cherokee Fiddle.”
“I knew that Lookin’ for Love was going to be a huge hit when I was watching the movie and Bud says, 'Hey, turn that up, that’s my favorite song,' ” Mickey Gilley said.
Although, Lee had several hits before Urban Cowboy, “Lookin’ for Love” was his first gold record. “Lookin’ for Love” was a number one song for three weeks in 1980. It's the song most people relate to when they hear “Urban Cowboy.” In the early and mid-1980s, Lee had 17 top-40 country hits.
“Looking for love was written by two second-grade teachers,” Lee said. “They got the idea from some of their students. One night I was at a show and some of those students were there to meet me. It was a full-circle-kind-of moment. It really meant a lot to me.”
The song was such a hit, that Eddie Murphy did a parody of the tune, “Wookin’ for Wub” in his now famous Buckwheat skit.
To date, Lookin’ for Love remains to be the most requested song for Lee and his favorite to perform.
While both singers have aged substantially, they continue to perform their classic hits. Lee, 73, is fighting the effects of Parkinson's and recovering from a recent surgery. And Gilley, 83, no longer plays the piano, due to an accident that affected his spinal cord. His voice, however, remains crystal clear. Both men are enjoy their reunion and this tour.
Despite time and age, four-decades later, the Urban Cowboy phenomenon continues, glorifying honky-tonk music and the urban cowboy lifestyle. Fans of all ages continue to buy-out these concerts and clamor to see these iconic musicians.
For their Crockett show, Lee and Gilley will perform their personal hits as well as the songs from Urban Cowboy with Gilley’s seven member band and two female backup singers. They also share stories and video clips about their lives, their careers, and music.
This show is sponsored by Houston County Electric Cooperate and Lisa Blackwood. Tickets are $45 and $55.
For more information, contact the Piney Woods Fine Arts Association, 936-544-4276.