Catching up with Mickey Gilley

March 2, 2011 8:31:12 PM PST
If you love country music, Houston is the place to be this month, with star after star taking the stage at the rodeo.

But there's one country singer whose star never stops shining in our area. Grammy award winner, Mickey Gilley, and his famous honky-tonk "Gilley's" put the city of Pasadena on the map.

His laugh is hearty and constant. Gilley has used his positive attitude to get through one of the roughest periods of his life.

"I'm lucky to be here. I'm lucky to be alive," he said.

A freak accident two years ago left him paralyzed from the neck down. It happened helping a friend move a couch.

"I stepped the wrong way and I fell about 18 or 20 inches, and I landed right on the back of my neck, and the first thing I heard someone say was don't move," Gilley said.

And he didn't move -- for months.

Gilley went to rehab at the Memorial Hermann Institute for Rehabilitation and Research, known as TIRR, the same place U.S. Representative Gabrielle Giffords is now being treated.

For Gilley, it was a difficult journey that leaves him choked up just talking about it.

"Because I was having to struggle with everything that I had to do. I was so used to going out and being able to do everything I wanted to do and then all of the sudden, I couldn't do anything. I had to have help," he replied.

Gilley blasted to worldwide fame as co-owner of a Pasadena honky-tonk bearing his name. Gilley's was featured in the 1978 film Urban Cowboy, a heady time when most of the country was wearing cowboy hats and boot scootin'. Gilley earned several gold records, 17 #1 songs and a Grammy.

His hits remain the centerpiece at his theater in Branson, Missouri. He opened it over 20 years ago, his showcase boogie-woogie style piano playing as much a part of his persona as the Urban Cowboy legend.

"I started playing when I was about 13 years old and of course, most people knew that I grew up with my two famous cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Reverend Jimmy Swaggart, and I always give credit to Jerry Lee for the style of piano he played when we were kids growing up," he said.

A fire in 1990 closed his iconic Pasadena honky-tonk. Or did it?

"There's a possibility there will be another Gilley's in Pasadena. I can't say anymore than that," he said.

A work in progress, he says, so is his rehab. He's now able to walk and he showed us his sprawling home and acreage in Pasadena.

The two things he can't do are what he loves the most, play golf and piano. His left hand has limited movement but his vocals remain, he even sang one of his biggest hits to us.

Just as his fans have stood by him, Gilley says he will stand by his goal to keep performing the songs his fans love.

Gilley is still touring and performing at his theater in Branson. In May, he'll be honored at the State Capitol as an outstanding Texan.


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