It’s a bittersweet feeling to see the Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee Urban Cowboy Reunion Show nearing its end in Branson, Missouri. Though neither Gilley or Lee have plans to retire just yet, the show itself will come to its finale this 2020 year.
Long time friends Gilley and Lee have been in the country music limelight of Branson for decades as this year marks the official 40th Anniversary of the Urban Cowboy Reunion Show. With every showing, these talented country music artists perform their chart topping country music hits, share fun memories, throw in a dash of comedy, and perform with voices that have remained strong and true through the ages!
Lee first began his musical journey shortly after returning home from Vietnam in 1968 where he served in the Navy. During the following years, Lee got into playing cover tunes in Texas nightclubs and bars throughout the region. Lee said he wasn’t especially fond of country music at the time, but it soon got ahold of him and hasn’t let go since.
“Country music got into me. I didn’t get into it,” Lee explained with a smile. When asked what officially kicked off his musical career, Lee said it was “Mickey Gilley number one. And then, what really kicked it off was the Urban Cowboy movie.”
Urban Cowboy was a movie from the 1980s that was shot at Gilley’s Club in Pasadena, Texas that propelled several hit singles including Lee’s “Lookin’ for Love”. Following the release of the movie, Lee had five songs reach the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart. Those songs included: “One in a Million”, “Bet Your Heart on Me”, “The Yellow Rose”, and “You Could Have Heard a Heartbreak”.
In 2008, Lee performed on a regular basis in Branson, Missouri and hasn’t stopped since. When asked about retirement, Lee said with assurance, “Only if I have to. I want to do [music] until I can’t do it anymore.”
Gilley said something similar when he was asked the same question in an interview about retirement. He said, “I think retirement is in all of our futures. I’m going to work until I’m not able to perform anymore. [M]y voice is holding up and I’m doing quite well as far as singing is concerned.”
Gilley grew up around music and additionally grew up alongside the musically inclined Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart. Coincidentally, all three boys sang and played piano in church together. Gilley said he made his first recording in 1957 and tried to follow his cousin Jerry D. Lewis into the music industry. “I loved what I was doing at the time and I stayed with it,” Mickey said. “I didn’t have a hit until 17 years later, but it was a great ride up to that point.”
As the years passed by, the boys eventually went their separate ways, including Gilley who headed for Houston in the early 1950s.
Fast forward to 1971, and Gilley opened the popular and well-loved Gilley’s night club in Pasadena, Texas. It was at this club that success became a regular for Gilley as he released hits like “City Lights”, “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time”, and ” I Overlooked and Orchid”. Each of these songs went on to reach number one the Billboard Country Charts.
Mickey’s success led Paramount pictures to film a movie in 1979, The Urban Cowboy. With a stellar cast of John Travolta and Debra Winger and an amazing country music soundtrack, the 1980 movie soon became a phenomenon. The soundtrack featured Lee’s hit song, “Stand By Me”, which went platinum, and Micky’s Urban Cowboy Band’s performance of “Orange Blossom Special”, which went on to earn a Grammy Award.
Gilley decided to take his show to the road and settled for Branson, Missouri. In 1989, Gilley build his own theater. A four short years after, tragedy struck and the theater burned to the ground. Not one to be deterred easily, the theater was soon rebuilt and Gilley’s musical career continued to grow.
“Me and Johnny started doing the reunion tour of The Urban Cowboy music and it’s been very successful for the both of us. This is the 40th year of The Urban Cowboy Reunion and its been a lot of fun and we’ve had a great time doing it.”
Going out on stage, Gilley described he mostly enjoys performing some top hits for the audience.” I can’t do anything better than that,” he said. “[If] They want to hear the number one songs, that’s what I try to do.”
Gilley, who is now 80 years of age, went on to explain, “This will be the last year but it’s been a great ride. I’d like to say thanks to all of the country music out there that’s kept Mickey Gilley out there performing for the folks. Johnny Lee and Mickey Gilley have been having a great time doing the Urban Cowboy Reunion Tour. If you get a chance, come see us. I think you’ll enjoy the show.”
You heard the man! Locals and tourists alike should come see this unique, funny, energetic show while they still can! To learn more about the Urban Cowboy Reunion show click here. If you’re looking for lower priced tickets, premium seating, and helpful booking information, please give us a call at +1 (855)912-0182 as we have temporarily suspended online booking.
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Videos by Chris Canote: Videographer/Editor