(CNN) – Country singer Mickey Gilley, best known as the pioneer of the “urban cowboy” style, died Saturday in Branson, Mo., his publicist Zach Farnum said. He was 86 years old.
The Natchez, Mississippi native “passed away peacefully” surrounded by family and close friends, according to a statement released by Farnum. He had recently returned from the road after playing 10 shows in April, according to the statement.
Gilley had 17 number-one country records, beginning with “Room Full of Roses” in 1974. Gilley also had major crossover success in 1980 with a country-flavored cover of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”, rising to number one on the Billboard Hot Country charts and number three on the Adult Contemporary chart.
Gilley’s music career was given a new lease of life with the movie “Urban Cowboy,” which starred John Travolta and was set at Gilley’s own honky tonk club in Pasadena, Texas. The film helped popularize country-western culture in urban environments, including the riding of mechanical bulls, which was central to the film’s action.
In 1989, Gilley was one of the first major country singers to open his own theater in Branson, Missouri, helping to transform the hamlet of Ozark into a major entertainment tourism town. Her publicist said Gilley had just completed a ten-show tour in April.
Gilley received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1984. Among his survivors are crossover music star Jerry Lee Lewis, Gilley’s cousin, best known for singing “Great Balls of Fire”.
He is survived by his wife Cindy Loeb Gilley and his children Kathy, Michael, Gregory and Keith Ray, as well as four grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren.
Many artists and friends have publicly mourned the loss of Gille and shared memories in tributes by Nashville advertising company 2911 Media.
“My heart will forever break over the loss of my dear friend Mickey Gilley,” said American country singer Johnny Lee. “He believed in me when no one else did. Losing Gilley feels like a bad dream and sadly it’s not.”
Country singer T. Graham Brown also shared words of condolence, saying Gilley “lived a full life and left us with a great catalog of success.”
“We just lost a wonderful human being,” Brown said. “One of the things I’m most proud of is that over the years we’ve grown close. The times we spent together doing shows, cruising or just talking were a gift. “