Mickey Leroy Gilley is an American country music singer and musician. Although he started out singing straight-up country and western material in the 1970s, he moved towards a more pop-friendly sound in the 1980s, bringing him further success on not just the country charts, but the pop charts as well. Among his biggest hits are “Room Full of Roses,” “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time,” and the remake of the Soul hit “Stand by Me”. He is also the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl McVoy, Jim Gilley and Jimmy Swaggart.
He was born to Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Gilley in Natchez, the seat of Adams County in western Mississippi. For many years, Gilley lived in the shadow of his cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis, the rock and roll singer and musician in the 1950s. The two as children grew up close by each other; Gilley lived just across the Mississippi River from Louisiana where Lewis grew up. Gilley, Lewis, and another cousin Jimmy Swaggart played piano together as children. This is when Gilley first learned to play the piano. Together, they all sang boogie-woogie and Gospel music, however, Gilley didn’t consider himself a professional singer until Jerry Lee hit the top of the charts in the 1950s. Mickey cut a few singles on his own in late 1950s and played sessions in New Orleans with producer Huey Meaux. In 1958, he had a record “Call Me Shorty” on the Dot label and it sold well. In the 1960s, he played at many clubs and bars, getting a following at the Nesadel Club in Houston, Texas. In 1967, Paula Records released Gilley’s first album called Down the Line and the following, he had a minor hit from the album called “Now I Can Live Again”.
In 1970, Gilley opened up his first club in Pasadena, Texas, called Gilley’s Club, replacing the club that was there called Shelley’s Club. The club later became known as the “world’s biggest honky tonk.” He owned “Gilley’s Club” with former owner of Shelley’s Club named Sherwood Cryer, who asked Gilley to re-open the bar with him. The club portion of Gilley’s burned in 1990, while the rodeo arena portion was razed in 2005 to make way for a school.
In 1974, Gilley recorded a song that originally was only supposed to be recorded for fun entitled “Room Full of Roses”, written by Tim Spencer of the Sons of the Pioneers, which was a one-time hit for George Morgan. The song was released by Astro Records that year, and then Playboy Records got a hold of the single, and got national distribution for “Room Full of Roses”. From then on, Gilley was signed to Playboy Records working with his long-time friend Eddie Kilroy. “Room Full of Roses” became the song that put Gilley on national radar, hitting the very top of the Country charts that year, as well as making it to #100 on the pop music charts. “Room Full of Roses” today remains as one of his signature songs.