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by Halley Sanford June 06, 2021 2 min read

He may have topped the charts a time or two, but it can be argued that that’s not the most indelible mark Mickey Gilley made on the cultural landscape of country music.

Gilley had music in his blood, literally. He grew up performing with his cousins, the legendary Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. Gilley recorded under a number of labels, had 42 singles make it to the Top 40, and even had more than a dozen hits make it to #1 on the country music charts. He embraced the evolving scene and managed to find crossover success on both country and pop radio, releasing 17 straight Top 10 hits in the half-decade following the release of Urban Cowboy, the cult classic film that put Mickey Gilley and his famed dancehall on the map.

Gilley co-owned the enormous honky-tonk with a man named Sherwood Cryer, who brought Gilley on to be the headlining performer and insisted on naming the bar after him (Mickey wanted to name it the “Den of Sin”). Though the bar opened in 1971, it became a phenomenon and “bucket list” bar in 1980 after the release of the Urban Cowboy, a gritty love story loosely based on the real-life relationship of two young lovers who met in the Texas dancehall and actually had their wedding there. While those two love stories ended very differently, it made for a powerful plot and an iconic film that had an indelible impact on the era, not the least of which was fashion.

“In concepting Sissy, it was never about dressing the actual character,” Cheryl explained. “I mean, heck, other than her wedding dress, was she ever in anything but a spaghetti-strap tank top and jeans? No, it was about dressing the vibe, the era, that whole honky-tonk heyday. It had to feel strong and sassy, low-key sexy. And definitively ‘Texas’, which parallels Americana, the red-white-and-blue, the stars, the bandanas. I think you could put on anything in this collection and turn heads in Gilley’s. That was the goal.”

Now that the world is back open, if you’re so inclined, you yourself can turn some heads in your Sissy attire at Gilley’s. The original location closed decades ago, but the Dallas location is still up and running, mechanical bull and all.

And as for Mickey? The 85-year-old was still performing as recently as last year. But Gilley’s legacy may always be that little piece of Pasadena paradise that bore his name.


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