Gilley and Lee.jpg

Mickey Gilley, left, laughs as Johnny Lee tells a story about him. Their "Urban Cowboy Reunion" show returns next month.

With the biggest weekend of the summer almost in the books and the fall season right around the corner, country music hitmakers Mickey Gilley and Johnny Lee are gearing up for their upcoming run at the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theatre.

“We knocked it out of the park last year and earlier this year, and people just raved about the fact they got to see us together,” Gilley said. “They’re going to like this show even better because we’re doing some things this fall that we’ve never done before.”

Due to more demand for road shows, Gilley decided to step away from being a Branson mainstay in 2015, following Lee, who stepped away several years before. Not too long after departing the show scene for the road, Gilley and Lee were asked to fill in for their friend Mel Tillis at the Clay Cooper Theatre.

“I was asked to come back to fill in for Mel Tillis, and Johnny wanted to come and work with me so we decided to do the ‘Urban Cowboy’ reunion,” Gilley said. “It was so successful and we had fabulous turnouts for last year’s shows, we decided to come back again this year.”

The duo will perform a new version of the “Urban Cowboy Reunion Show” three days a week beginning in September.

“It was my ultimate goal to revamp the show last year, but we really didn’t have time to put it together that way,” Gilley said. “So this year, I’m going to come out first, do a song and then introduce Johnny. Then  intermission, then I’ll do my show, then we’ll do the songs from the film the ‘Urban Cowboy.’ There’s so many good songs on that soundtrack that get left out, we wanted to perform some of those for the people.

“We’re both excited, our batteries are recharged, and we’re ready to rock.”

Gilley’s career has spanned more than 50 years and includes 17 No. 1 hits, including “Room Full of Roses,” “Window Up Above,” “Stand By Me” and “Paradise Tonight.” Gilley also took home five Academy of Country Music Award wins in one night with song of the year for “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time,” single of the year for “Bring it On Home,” album of the year, male vocalist and entertainer of the year, plus movie and television roles, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and owner of the “World’s Largest Honky Tonk,” which was featured in the film “Urban Cowboy,” a box office hit starring John Travolta and Deborah Winger. Gilley also recorded several songs used in the soundtrack.

“It shot me and Johnny Lee into the stratosphere,” Gilley said with a grin. “I’m not saying this to brag, but in the early 1980s, we were the hottest thing in country music. We had a manager who didn’t really know what he was doing, so maybe we didn’t get some of the accolades we should have gotten out of it. 

“But the bottom line is we probably weren’t as good as we thought we were anyway (laughs).”

In his personal life, Gilley has dealt with plane crashes, emergency surgeries and learning to walk again after a 2009 fall that left him paralyzed. After a year of rehab, he returned to the stage, and he continues to work hard on his rehab, even though he still can’t play the piano.

“I’ve been going to the gym and working out, trying to get my health back up,” Gilley said. “I can’t wipe myself off the face of the earth, but I sure keep trying. Heart surgery, brain surgery, back surgery, appendix exploded, two airplane crashes, and I’m still here.”

Lee, Gilley’s “Urban Cowboy” co-star, began pursuing a career in music immediately after returning home from Vietnam in 1968. Soon after, he began a working relationship with Gilley, both on the road and in the nightclub in Pasadena, Texas.

He was then asked to perform in the film “Urban Cowboy.” The massively popular “Lookin’ for Love” became his signature hit and first Gold Record, spending three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Music Singles Chart and reached as high as No. 2 on Billboard’s Pop Music Singles Charts. He followed that with “One In A Million,” “Bet Your Heart On Me,” “The Yellow Rose” and “Cherokee Fiddle.”

Lee became a fixture in Branson in the 1990s, and is still one of the most popular acts in town whenever he performs.

Gilley and Lee have been working together since the 1960s, and have shared the stage at some point in every decade since. That friendship has helped both men, especially when it comes to fan interaction.

“I learned from this man (Gilley) a long time ago that we take care of our fans,” Lee said. “We sign autographs, take pictures, and really try to make their trip to see us as memorable as we can.

“Plus, it’s very important to me to meet as many people as I can because I’m still ‘Lookin’ for Love,’ too (laughs).”

That fan interaction, as well as the desire to bring a “quality” show featuring two of country music’s most popular artists from that era are always at the forefront of their mind, especially with the changing landscape of Branson.

“Between the two of us, we have somewhere close to 30 No. 1 hits, and it’s not about the money, it’s not about the fame, it’s about the music,” Gilley said. “But in order to provide the music the way we want to do it and the way they want to hear it, you have to have a big enough to play it because I don’t want to use tracks.

“There aren’t too many places in town to go hear hit songs sang by the original artists, and we want to make sure these folks get their money’s worth.”

When asked how they felt about getting older, as well as the possibility of retirement, they both responded with their trademarked humor.

“To be 81, I’m doing good,”  Glley said. “My opening line of the show is ‘I just turned 81, I hope I look like I’m 50 even though I walk like I’m 90.’”

“I’m doing fine, too,” Lee said. “About 10 years better than Gilley, anyway.”

“You know, we’ll all get there one day, but we can’t die or retire just yet,” Gilley said.

“That’s right, we can’t die or retire yet because we’re booked.”

“But seriously, we love Branson,” Gilley continued. “The city, the people, and we’re looking forward to a great fall. If this is successful, then we’ll come back and do it again next year, yes sir.”

The “Urban Cowboy Reunion Show” will return Sept. 17 with 8 p.m. Sunday and Mondays, and 3 p.m. Tuesdays.

For more, visit

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.