Friends remember country music icon Mickey Gilley

Bobby Marquez and Mickey Gilley
Posted at 7:39 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 23:02:47-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Country music icon Mickey Gilley was more than a hitmaker. He played a vital role in bringing country music's style to a bigger audience than ever. Gilley died over the weekend at 86-years-old. Now, Gilley's friends talk about how he made that impact.

Many visiting downtown have no idea the level of inspiration everything they see took from one man. Country music icon Gilley had 17 No. 1 country hits and opened the Texas bar Gilley's back in the 70s.

"I don't think there would be so many celebrity bars and restaurants if it hadn't been for Gilley's," said Crook and Chase host and producer Lorianne Crook.

Crook and singer-songwriter Bobby Marquez know all about how Gilley's would become the setting for the 1980 John Travolta hit film, "Urban Cowboy." The soundtrack had some of Gilley's songs, and the whole project launched a country/western phenomenon.

"I had friends in New York in television and radio who were getting cowboy boots and cowboy hats!" said Crook.

"You had the cowboy hat, you had the jeans, you had the boots," said Marquez. "Everybody wanted to be a cowboy. Everybody wanted to be a cowboy. It just made country music cool again."

Gilley's and the film even inspired bars everywhere to add mechanical bulls, something you still see downtown.

"You really have to ride the bull or you ain't country!" laughed Crook. "He never took credit for this Urban Cowboy phenomenon. He said it wasn't me. It was all because John Travolta said yes to being the star of the movie."

Both Marquez and Crook said that was due to the humble nature of someone they knew as a friend.

"I was so honored to know the man," said Crook. "He was always a man of such gratitude. It took him a while to get his first hit. After reaching the heights, he never forgot how hard it was."

After Gilley's death, that's how two people want their friend remembered, as a man who made an impact too great to measure but was always there with encouraging words for another singer-songwriter.

"He was just that good of a person," said Marquez. "My goodness. We've lost a legend in country music that's going to be missed for a very, very long time."