BRANSON, Mo. – Tributes are pouring in for country-music icon Mickey Gilley.
He died over the weekend at the age of 86.
Gilley was among the first entertainers to call Branson home, opening the Mickey Gilley Grand Shanghai Theater more than 30 years ago.
“We went to his shows for years here. He was a staple on the stage here. But even more than that, he was a staple in the community. He was a friend to everyone he really loved on people,” said former Branson Mayor Karen Best.
Former mayor Karen Best says Gilley made the Ozarks his home.
She says he was known locally for his love of animals, golf, and his favorite meal – sushi.
“We would see him in all different kinds of places. We would see him at restaurants. We would see him at grocery stores. You know, he was a member of our community and we loved him as a neighbor. Of course, we all loved him in urban cowboy, and that’s how everybody came to know him,” said Best.
Known for launching the Urban Cowboy Movement – Gilley was popular in the 70s and 80s for his honky tonk nightclubs, leading to success on the big screen and airwaves.
His passion for performing brought him to Branson in 1989 when he opened mickey Gilley’s Grand Shanghai Theater.
“It’s just so sad to think of Branson without Mickey. I mean, you think of Mickey Gilley, you think of Johnny Lee and you think of Branson. And so that’s going to be the hard part moving forward is Branson without Mickey Gilley,” said Best.
Gilley’s publicist said his death comes after playing ten shows on the road in April, although he was in failing health over the past week.
He died peacefully in Branson with his family and close friends by his side.