Houston Matters

‘It Was Like Country Night Fever’ — Mickey Gilley On Urban Cowboy, 40 Years Later

The country music star’s Pasadena nightclub was the setting for much of the film, which starred John Travolta and Debra Winger.


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Forty years ago Saturday, the movie Urban Cowboy hit theaters. The film starred John Travolta, Debra Winger, and — well, let’s be honest — Gilley’s bar and country dance hall in Pasadena.

Yes, the movie was filmed in the Houston area, much of it at Gilley’s, a honky-tonk that had room for 6,000 people — and one very popular mechanical bull.

The entrance to the original Gilley’s nightclub in Pasadena.

It was named after co-owner and country music star Mickey Gilley.

The cousin of rock and roll legend Jerry Lee Lewis, Gilley’s career leapt to another level when the nightclub opened, and then again, when the movie became a hit.

In the audio above, Gilley tells Houston Public Media’s Eddie Robinson about his memories of Gilley’s and Urban Cowboy and the legacy of the movie four decades after its release.

Their interview was produced by Shannon McKirchy and Michael Hagerty.

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Michael Hagerty

Michael Hagerty

Senior Producer, Houston Matters

Michael Hagerty is the senior producer for Houston Matters. He's spent more than 20 years in public radio and television and dabbled in minor league baseball, spending four seasons as the public address announcer for the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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