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Mickey Gilley talks Gilley’s & Urban Cowboy

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In 1980, the world’s attention was on Gilley’s in Pasadena, TX thanks to the movie Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta (Buford Uan “Bud” Davis) and Debra Winger (Sissy).

Dave Ward sat down with Mickey Gilley, the musician and club owner that inspired the movie which was directed by James Bridges and is celebrating a 40th anniversary.

“It had a good life span,” Gilley told Dave Ward’s Houston on abc13 KTRK. “We opened it in 1971 and it lasted until 1989.”

Gilley and Sherwood Cryer opened the club which had a dance floor the size of a football field complete with a shooting gallery, rodeo arena and of course the famous mechanical bull. The bull, Gilley told Dave, was not an idea he thought was safe when first installed by Cryer.

According to the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), the club eventually had a 6,000 person capacity and was designated by the Guinness Book of World Records (just like Dave) as the world’s largest honky-tonk. It also had a radio show of its recorded live performances called “Live at Gilley’s” that was broadcast on radio station across the United States and the world.

Not only did the club became a hit, so did Gilley’s singing career. In 1974 he had a number one hit song with “Room Full of Roses.” It would be his first of seventeen number one hits.

Since everything is bigger in Texas, the popular Pasadena club caught the eye of Esquire magazine, which published the article “The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America’s Search for True Grit” by Aaron Latham in 1978.

That article led to the movie and the rest as they say is history.

For more on what Gilley is up to now, read the full story.

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