Thirty-five years ago today, June 6, 1980, Urban Cowboy debuted, the craze took hold for a few years, and Pasadena was on the map.
Over 70 photos at the Chron.com from that night's debut in Houston, and other Gilley's photos, are here.
(part 2 of 6, from 2012)
Gilley's was a nightclub located in Pasadena, Texas, from 1970 to 1990. The club, owned by Sherwood Cryer, had been previously called Shelly's. Cryer decided to reopen it in 1970 under the name Gilley's, with budding musician Mickey Gilley as partner. Gilley, who grew up in Ferriday, Louisiana, with cousins Jerry Lee Lewis and Jimmy Swaggart, wanted to call the club the "Den of Sin," but Sherwood insisted on naming it Gilley's, since Mickey Gilley himself was to be the headlining act.
Gilley's launched Mickey Gilley's career, for the club was an instant success. It filled to capacity nightly soon after the opening. It had a shooting gallery, showers for truckers, a rodeo arena with mechanical bulls, pool tables, punching bags, and a dance floor big enough for thousands. It had a 6,000-person capacity and was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the world's largest honky-tonk. Gilley's was open seven days a week, from 10 A.M. to 2 A.M. Its motto was "We Doze but We Never Close." Dramatic economic growth occurred along the Texas Gulf Coast in the late 1970s, especially in Houston. Many residents of Pasadena worked in the Houston-area petrochemical plants, and they used Gilley's as a place to socialize.
Loretta Lynn, Ernest Tubb, Emmylou Harris, and Roseanne Cash all played at Gilley's, along with many other famous country artists. Most performances were recorded live and archived, and the nightly shows were broadcast weekly on radio from 1977 to 1989. Live from Gilley's was carried nationally by more than 500 stations. Thanks to Armed Forces Radio, the show was also broadcast around the globe.
In 1978 Aaron Latham published "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America's Search for True Grit" in the September 12 issue of Esquire magazine. Cryer had urged Latham to write this article, based on Latham's experiences at Gilley's, in hopes that a movie would be made of the story. The movie Urban Cowboy began filming in 1979. Most of the movie was filmed inside Gilley's. It starred John Travolta and Debra Winger as the characters Bud and Sissy, who meet at Gilley's, marry, separate, and then reunite.
While the South Belt had always had its share of kickers, the Urban Cowboy fad seemed to give license for everyone to get on board with the boots, fringed jackets, belt buckles the size of platters, and cowboy hats that barely stopped short of full-on peacock displays.
From the 80-81 book, the Up Close group from Dobie was representin'
And in the section on Fashion:
Don't miss the Retrospace Fad #20's contribution to the wonder that was urban cowboy fashion.