Gilley

Mickey Gilley is set to perform Nov. 15 at Liberty Hall in Tyler. (Courtesy) 

Mickey Gilley says that during his concerts he takes fans on a journey through his career that has spanned half a century. 

"I show a video biography of my life in music," Gilley said in an interview from his home in Branson, Missouri. "I talk about my life and tell stories."

He also sings many of the 17 No. 1 songs that his fans continue to love. 

When not performing in Branson, where he has a theater that bears his name, Gilley takes his show on the road.

He will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at Liberty Hall, 103 E. Erwin St. in Tyler. Tickets cost $50 or $60 and are available at libertytyler.com

For many, Gilley's story is well known. 

He was born in Natchez, Mississippi, and grew up in the little town of Ferriday, Louisiana, across the Mississippi River. During the earliest years of his career, he was overshadowed by his more famous cousins, singer Jerry Lee Lewis and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart.

In 1959, “Is It Wrong For Loving You?” became Gilley's first record to crack the music charts.

"Kenny Rogers played bass on it," Gilley said. "A lot of people don't know that."

Although Gilley had some success in the 1960s, he didn't begin to have a large following until he moved to Texas and began playing clubs in the Houston area. In the 1970s, his hits included “City Lights," “I Overlooked and Orchid” and “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.” 

His fame rose as did the popularity of Gilley's, the huge honky tonk he owned in Pasadena that was hangout of city dwellers who had country roots. The club and the country singers who performed at it became the center of the urban cowboy craze. 

Gilley became a bigger star after the 1979 release of "Urban Cowboy," the hit movie starring John Travolta that featured the club. The movie's soundtrack is one of the biggest country music albums of all time. One of the album's most popular songs is Gilley's version of "Stand by Me."

"The music (on the album) has stood the test of time," Gilley said. "The music is as good now as it was then."

At age 83, Gilley still spends much of his time performing.

"I enjoy it," he said. "And my performances are better now then when I was younger. I sing better. You learn things (as a performer) over the years."

Gilley said he travels with a seven-piece band and two backup singers. The only thing that he doesn't do is play the piano. 

"I can't do that since the accident," he said. 

Last January, Gilley and his son were returning to Branson from a gig in Texas when they were involved in a wreck. The vehicle they were in rolled three times. Gilley fractured an ankle and his right shoulder. 

Gilley said he feels better than ever and enjoys being on the road. 

"I love getting out and meeting folks," he said. "People think I'm crazy but I still do the meet and greets after each show."

Gilley is looking forward to 2020. He said he and Johnny Lee, who also became a star thanks to his songs on the "Urban Cowboy" soundtrack, are planning a series of concerts together. 

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