The singer-pianist's famous honky-tonk inspired the 1980 film Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta.

Mickey Gilley, the country singer whose famous honky-tonk inspired the 1980 film Urban Cowboy, died Saturday in Branson, Missouri. He was 86.

The singer's publicist, Zach Farnum, confirmed the news to EW in a statement, saying "Gilley was 86 and had just come off of the road, his favorite place, having played ten shows in April. He passed peacefully with his family and close friends by his side."

Singer Mickey Gilley performs onstage during day 2 of the Stagecoach Music Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2015 in Indio, California.
Mickey Gilley
| Credit: Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic

Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Gilley's family were no strangers to artistry and show business — his cousins included artist Jerry Lee Lewis and televangelist Jimmy Swaggart. After learning to play the piano as a child, he began his career in the 1950s with his first recorded single "Ooh Wee Baby." Over time, Gilley went on to amass 17 No. 1 country records, as well as crossover success when he covered Ben E. King's "Stand By Me" in 1980 (as part of Urban Cowboy's release) which hit number one on the Billboard Hot Country charts.

Outside of his singing and performing career, Gilley was most notable for owning a country music nightclub (named "Gilley") which opened in the early 1970s in Pasadena, Texas. By selling and playing his own records, he was able to find success with his music both locally and nationally. The honky-tonk put Texas cowboy culture on the map, eventually serving as the real-life inspiration and setting for the 1980 film Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta. The movie went on to inspire a short-lived Broadway show that debuted in 2003 and in 2015, Fox ordered a pilot based on the film starring Jim Belushi.

John Travolta in 'Urban Cowboy.'
| Credit: Everett Collection

Following the recognition of Urban Cowboy, Gilley appeared in numerous TV and movie roles throughout the 1980's, famously portraying himself in series such as Fantasy Island, The Fall Guy, and Murder, She Wrote. He continued to record songs that hit the top 20 country charts and spent most of his later years in Branson.

In 1984, Gilley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1984. He is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley, his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, his four grandchildren and his nine great grandchildren.

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