Last July, country singer and musician Mickey Gilley was helping a friend move a sofa when he slipped and fell backwards off of a 15-inch ledge. He couldn’t get up – he was paralyzed. All he could move were his eyeballs. When asked what his first thoughts were he said, “I prayed to God to let me die, I didn’t want to live in that condition.”
Some sort of a no-good spirit has been chasing Gilley for a long time. In 1961 he had heart surgery. Sometime later his appendix burst. In 1992 his theater burned down. When he had a neck lift, the doctor cut too deep and he almost bled to death. Within the last two years he had fluid on the brain, crashed two airplanes, and now faces the biggest challenge of all.
Most country fans remember Gilley from his hit records and the famous Gilley’s Club in Pasadena, Texas, known as the ”world’s biggest honky tonk.” The song “Room Full of Roses” put Gilley on the map big time in 1974 when the song hit the top of the Country charts – even though he recorded it just for fun. In 1980 his career took another leap when his recording “Stand by Me” was featured in the movie Urban Cowboy.
Gilley is one “determined” man! Shortly after the accident he was able to slightly move his arms. He made the decision that he was going to return to normal and fight with all that was in him. Presently he is able to walk a short distance with help. He attributes the many prayers he has received, plus a variety of therapies, for his remarkable recovery. His piano playing hands are not tickling the ivories just yet – but they will!
On April 12th, 2010, I attended Gilley’s opening at the Mickey Gilley Theater in Branson, Missouri. It was the most emotional show I have ever attended. The place was packed with friends and a plethora of celebrities, including Andy Williams. Though he did the show sitting down, it worked! Two female singers moved him gently around the stage in his chair on wheels. Gilley’s comedic sidekick and steel player Joey Riley also joined him on stage. (Riley has his own show in the 2 p.m. slot.)
Gilley’s voice was better than ever! His final number of the evening was “Stand by Me”. In the middle of the song his girls helped him stand, and in unison the entire audience leapt to their feet. Gilley teared up with emotion, as did everyone else.
Mickey Gilley is very thankful for his life, and he believes that God still has work for him to do. His humor and humble attitude is a great example for all to emulate in times of adversity. (Gilley is the cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis and Pastor Jimmy Swaggart.)
Roy Rogers Jr. and his son Dustin Roy Rogers were also in attendance for Gilley’s opening. They are now performing at the Mickey Gilley Theater (10 a.m. slot) since they moved out of the Happy Trails Theater located in The Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum. Due to the economy, many tour busses have stopped traveling to tourist areas such as Branson. That alone took a major financial toll on the museum. Sadly it closed in December of 2009 – an end of an era!
People are pleasantly surprised when they discover that Roy Jr. is an entertainer in his own right as well as having an excellent singing voice. He is not trying to copy his famous dad nor stand in his shadow – he is lengthening it and continuing the legacy.
Dustin said that his grandmother (Dale Evans) taught him the values that he lives by today. His words were heartwarming as he spoke so fondly of her from the stage, bringing a tear to my eye. Roy Jr. stated that his parents set the pattern for his life and elaborated by saying. “Why change something that works?”
NOTE: Trigger passed away in 1965 and is stuffed along with Trigger Jr., Buttermilk, and Bullet. If you are a fan of Roy and Dale you know those names. My personal connection to Roy and Dale has made it difficult for me to accept the fact that the museum inventory as well as the animals are now in the hands of Christy’s auction house in New York. Perhaps an angel will come along and return Trigger and other precious pieces back to the Rogers family.
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