Johnny Lee, Mickey Gilley & TG Sheppard
The Newest Member of TheTexas Country Music Hall of Fame, Johnny Lee was born on July 3, 1946 in Texas City, Texas and was raised on a Dairy Farm in Alta Loma, Texas. His main interest was Rock 'N' Roll, and he led a high school band called Johnny Lee and the Roadrunners, which won local and statewide competitions.
After High School, Lee enlisted in the Navy, serving a tour of duty on the U.S.S. Chicago, a guided missile cruiser, in Vietnam. Immediately upon returning home, he started pursuing his music.
In 1968, he began a 10-year working relationship with Mickey Gilley, both on the road and in the nightclub in Pasadena, Texas. Recording with ABC/DOT and GRT Records, had moderate success with "Country Party" (new lyrics added to Rick Nelson's "Garden Party")
In 1979, Lee's first screen role was in a 1979 TV Movie, The Girls in the Office, starring Barbara Eden and Susan St. James. He was then asked to perform in the film, Urban Cowboy, which starred John Travolta and Deborah Winger, and for which he also recorded several songs used in the soundtrack. "Lookin' For Love", from that same soundtrack, became Lee's first Gold Record. The song spent 3 weeks at the top of the Billboard Country Music Singles Charts as #1, and #2 on the Pop Music Singles Charts.
He followed up "Lookin' For Love" with "One In A Million", which spent two weeks at #1. More #1 Singles during this time included - "Bet Your Heart On Me," "The Yellow Rose (a duet with Lane Brody)," and "You Could've Heard a Heart Break." His string of Top 10 hits continued with "Pickin' Up Strangers," "Prisoner of Hope," "Be There for Me Baby," "Cherokee Fiddle," "Sounds Like Love," "Hey Bartender" and "Rollin' Lonely."
During the height of his success, he appeared on talk shows, several network specials and series such as "Fantasy Island", "CHiPS", "The Fall Guy", "The A-Team", and "The Grande Ole Opry."
Lee's recording career was largely on hold following his '91 cover version of de Burgh's pop hit, "Lady In Red". He finally returned to the studio in '03, and recorded "13th of July" and a Christmas Album "Santa Claus Is Lookin' For Love." Johnny then released two albums in 2006, the original CD "Emotions," and a compilation of a record 46 songs on a 2-CD Set entitled "Greatest Hits and More."
Since the '06 release of his cookbook called "Chef Boy 'R' Lee" loaded with funny stories and good recipes, Johnny has even begun working on his own food line!
Still writing, still performing, and still Lookin' For Love, Johnny Lee is keeping as busy as he can. Johnny is a WORK IN PROGRESS!
Mickey Gilley has accomplished what most artists only dream of — a long and fulfilling career marked by loyal fans and financial success. One of the secrets behind Mickey's longevity is his ability to balance the heart of an entertainer with the brain of a businessman. He hasn't had to "reinvent" himself to stay in the game. He has stayed current with the times, but Mickey knows what not to change. He has treated his fans with the same respect throughout the years, maintained his consistent high-quality performances, selected classic songs that withstood the fickleness of trends and tapped into business opportunities with an uncanny foresight.
The landmark Texas nightclub he helped create in 1971, is the perfect case in point. Gilley's Club was the sensation of the era: the "world's largest honky-tonk." It was a launching pad for some of country music's biggest stars and the dominating force behind the "Urban Cowboy" craze that swept the country in the early '80s, following the release of the John Travolta movie filmed in the Pasadena, Texas, nightclub.
Today, more than a decade after the club burned to the ground in 1989, Gilley's — like its namesake — just keeps rising from the ashes to retain its legendary status. As the new century dawned, developers announced the rebirth of Gilley's as "Gilley's Dallas," an entertainment complex that is part of the "South Side" development in the Texas metropolis. Bigger and better than ever, the new Gilley's contains a 2,000-seat showroom featuring national headline acts.
"I knew we had done something extraordinary at the time, especially after Paramount filmed Urban Cowboy in the club," Mickey says. "But I had no idea Gilley's would outlast the millennium. This is really incredible."
In addition to Gilley's Dallas, there is a Gilley's Club at The New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas. This gives Gilley's a presence on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. Urban Cowboy was mounted as a musical, which ran on Broadway for part of 2003. The Gilley's Club logo was prominent on the Broadway stage.
Even as he was helping to build the original Gilley's Club into the landmark honky-tonk of the century, Mickey was also launching an incredible career as an entertainer and recording artist. He scored his first string of consecutive number-one hits in the mid-'70s — "Roomful of Roses," "I Overlooked An Orchid," "City Lights," "Window Up Above," "Don't The Girls All Get Prettier At Closing Time" and "Bring It On Home To Me." He performed traditional honky-tonk songs long before the style returned to favor in Nashville. In the '80s, he became a smooth crooner of country love songs — "That's All That Matters To Me," "Headache Tomorrow, Heartache Tonight," "I'm Just A Fool For Your Love," "Lonely Nights," "Put Your Dreams Away" and "Paradise Tonight" — and distinctive updates of such romantic classics as "Stand By Me," "True Love Ways," "You Don't Know Me," "Talk To Me" and "You've Really Got A Hold On Me."
In all, Mickey has achieved a remarkable 39 Top-Ten country hits, with 17 of those songs reaching the No. 1 spot on the country charts. In 1976, he swept the ACM Awards, hauling home trophies for Entertainer of the Year, Top Male Vocalist, Song of the Year, Single of the Year and Album of the Year. He was ranked among the top-fifty country music hitmakers in the 1989 book written by record research historian Joel Whitburn.
Mickey also guest-starred on numerous popular television series, including Murder She Wrote, The Fall Guy, Fantasy Island and Dukes of Hazzard, as well as featured appearances on 20/20, The Grammy Awards Show, The American Music Awards, Solid Gold, The Tonight Show and several others. He is among a select-few country singers who have achieved the honor of being recognized with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, he was a featured attraction in Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City, which proves how universal his music is to American audiences.
And then there was Gilley's Club. The forerunner of Hard Rock Cafe and other theme restaurants so popular today, it also helped elevate country music to new heights of popularity.
"Gilley's wasn't planned. It evolved into what it became," Mickey says. "We started out seating 750 people, but because of a local television show I had in the Houston market, the crowds began to grow, and we started adding on to the club."
Esquire magazine caught wind of the excitement being created by the Pasadena nightclub and featured it in an article called "The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy." Intrigued by the piece, Paramount Pictures contracted to use Gilley's as the centerpiece of a motion picture with Saturday Night Fever star John Travolta.
"I never really believed that Paramount was going to do a film based on that article and shoot it at Gilley's," Mickey shares. "I still didn't believe it after we signed the contracts. Then one day I was in the recording studio that we had on the grounds, and the Paramount trucks started rolling in. I thought, 'Wow, they're really going to do it.'"
Opening his Branson theater in 1990, is another example of Mickey's visionary business ability. Just as he was a pioneer in the area of country dance clubs, Mickey was among the first entertainers to recognize the potential of the Ozark music Mecca. When his first Branson theater burned down in 1993 (deja vu!), Mickey rebuilt on the same spot, updating the venue and the restaurant he had opened next door in 1992. He expanded his business ventures further in 2002, by opening Gilley's Restaurant in his hometown of Pasadena, Texas.
"Branson works because it provides the best conditions for both the fans and the entertainers," Mickey notes. "The fans get to see us under the best setting possible as far as seeing a singer. The theaters have good seats, and we have set up the best stage with state-of-the-art sound and lights. We don't have to break down and set it back up day after day while we travel night after night, so everyone on stage is rested and ready to entertain. It's a quality situation for everyone."
In 2003, Varese Sarabande Records released Invitation Only. Mickey had recorded this album in 1989 and 1990. Several of the songs on the album are now featured in his show. Sony Music also put out Mickey Gilley-16 Biggest Hits on their Legacy imprint. The CD includes all 17 of Mickey's No. 1 recordings in the chronological order that they were released.
Mickey has become successful in Branson in the same way that he was successful as a recording artist: by giving his audiences what they want. His is a timeless talent keyed to the response of his fans.
Mickey's first musical influence as a boy growing up in Ferriday, La., was his piano-pounding cousin, Jerry Lee Lewis. He grew up close to Jerry Lee and another famous cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, even as he snuck up to the windows of clubs to absorb the haunting sound of Louisiana rhythm-and-blues.
Jerry Lee was the inspiration for Mickey's decision to entertain people for a living. At age 17, shortly before his cousin scored his first big hit, the youngster moved to Houston to work in construction. Mickey went to see Jerry Lee in concert in Houston and took him to the airport after the show. "He pulled out a big wad of hundred-dollar bills, and it made me decide right then that I was in the wrong business," Mickey says with a laugh. "The problem was, I was trying to be a Jerry Lee clone. Then a guy named Jim Ed Norman [now the president of Warner Bros./Nashville] came into my life. Jim Ed got me out of the shadow of Jerry Lee by giving me songs that appealed to a bigger audience. He helped me find my musical identity."
Mickey began by performing in the Houston nightclubs. He recorded his first song in Memphis for Dot Records and later performed as a singer and pianist in cities throughout the South. Eventually, his trek returned him to the Pasadena area, where he took up residence at the Nesadel Club and quickly developed into one of the city's most popular acts. He opened Gilley's in 1971, and started hitting the pop and country charts with a bang in the mid-seventies.
The entertainer continues to maintain a residence in Pasadena, Texas. His hobbies include golf, walking and flying his own airplane.
"I enjoy performing and singing as much these days as I ever have," Mickey says. "I joke that I'm semi-retired. Of course, I work just as hard as always. The thing about experience is, it helps you keep your priorities straight. I'm interested in quality now, not quantity. I make sure my business and my life are set up so I can get the most enjoyment out of the things I love. And the thing I love the most is getting on stage and performing a good show for people."
TG Sheppard has always had an unstoppable passion for music. This passion along with 21 number one hits and being ranked among the top 100 country artists of all time has made him one of the most popular live performers on tour today. It's only natural with a show chock full of chart topping hits like "Last Cheaters Waltz","I Loved 'Em Everyone","Do You Wanna Go To Heaven", and "Party Time" that TG has developed a reputation as a solid performer who delivers exactly what audiences want. All this and more combined with a steadfast dedication to entertainment has truly made him one of the great Legends in country music.
T.G. knew early in his life that music was more than a hobby. He left his home in Humboldt, Tennessee, at the age of 15, journeying to Memphis to begin his career in earnest. Working in various bands, he began to develop his stage skills, learning how to put his own touch on the myriad of songs required to survive on the club and party circuit. Using the name Brian Stacy, he released his first record, "High School Days", which caused a few ripples on the pop charts in 1966. The resulting acclaim brought him gigs as an opening act for some of the biggest acts in America, including The Animals, Jan & Dean and The Beach Boys.
The fledgling star veered off his musical course in 1965, reverting to his given name of Bill Browder and getting into the record promotion business. In a short time his passion for music, now redirected to furthering the careers of others, made him one of the industry's most successful record promoters.
In 1974, T.G. found a song that would change his life forever. His astute ability to pick a hit song and promote it had paid off for numerous artists, yet T.G. kept thinking of his own musical aspirations. He knew Bobby David's composition "Devil In The Bottle" was destined to be a hit, yet had no success in pitching the tune. After being turned down by eight record labels in 18 months, T.G. decided to cut the song himself. Heading to Nashville, he was signed to Motown, the mammoth R&B label that was trying to establish a presence in country music.
When he released "Devil In The Bottle" as T.G. Sheppard by night, he soon realized which of the two jobs would get his undivided attention. While promoting records for RCA, T.G. formed a close personal and professional relationship with Elvis Presley. The legendary performer appreciated T.G.'s unique style and personality. As a token of their friendship, Elvis gave T.G. his first tour bus in 1976, helping to provide him with the confidence to give up the promotion business and hit the road full time. During his first year on the road he scored numerous hits with the Motown imprints of Melodyland and Hitsville, including "Trying To Beat The Morning Home" and "When Can We Do This Again".
Named "Best New Male Artist" in 1976 by CASH BOX, T.G. signed with Warner Bros. when Motown decided to get out of country music. His career then skyrocketed as he scored 14 consecutive number one songs, including such classics as "Only One You", "Party Time", and "War Is Hell (On The Homefront)". In 1982, following this impressive "debut", T.G. was honored as Music City News "Most Promising Male Vocalist".
His sound - a smooth fusion of R&B rhythms, pop arrangements and solid country songwriting - was a blueprint for country music in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During this period, his style rarely changed, and fans came to rely on his substantial recordings of well crafted, slickly produced country-pop rhythms, highlighted by his evocative vocals.
The "promise" of T.G.'s early career continued into the 1980s, as he racked up one hit after another. His duet with Karen Brooks, "Faking Love", scored yet another number one, and "Make My Day", a duet with Clint Eastwood featured in the feature film "Sudden Impact" crossed over onto the pop charts.
In 1985, T.G. signed with Columbia Records, where he again found himself at the top of the charts with songs like "Fooled Around And Fell In Love", "Strong Heart", and "One For The Money". During his Columbia days, he worked with renowned producers Rick Hall and Bob Montgomery to create four more albums to add to his repertoire.
By 1990, country music traditionalists had changed the course of the format, and T.G. found himself wondering how he fit the new mold. He chose to withdraw from recording at this time and instead concentrated on his live performances, touching audiences night after night with his tried-and-true repertoire of hits, delivered with non-stop energy and the same excitement he felt as a teen.
He also made a name for himself as an astute businessman. In 1988, he opened his private residence in the Great Smoky Mountains as a bed and breakfast. The 160-year-old log home, built high atop Moon Mountain, was an instant success and is still a popular tourist destination, although T.G. no longer owns the property.
The popular performer, who learned firsthand the kind of entertainment experience fans craved, was one of the original investors in the highly popular chain of country nightclubs, Guitars & Cadillac’s. The clubs, located throughout the Midwest, serve as showcase venues for many emerging country singers as well as some of the format's biggest stars.
T.G. also served as the national spokesperson for the Folgers' NASCAR racing team for eight years. During a six-year span, he served as host/performer on "Folgers' Wakin' Up Country Tour", which headlined throughout North America.
In 1995, he took a two-year hiatus from the road to perform exclusively for eight months a year at T.G. Sheppard's Theater In The Smokies, a state-of-the-art theater in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains. For the first time in his musical career, he enjoyed the luxury of going home every night after a show. But the wanderlust of a road musician was inescapable, as he returned to the road in 1997.
Charity work is a crucial part of T.G.'s career. Throughout the year, he works with many of the nation's top charitable organizations such as Cerebral Palsy, Inc; St. Jude Children's Hospital; The Alzheimer's Association; The United Way; and ChildHelp USA.
T.G.'s first commercial album in over 13 years "Legendary Friends & Country Duets" has just been released. It is a duet CD with some of music's biggest icons including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Kelly Lang, Ricky Skaggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, Englebert Humperdink, Lorrie Morgan, Crystal Gayle, Delbert McClinton, The Whites, Mickey Gilley, Steve Cropper, Jimmy Fortune, and Wayne Jackson and the Memphis Horns. T.G. states that this is the music he is the most proud of. A 90 minute motion picture length DVD was also filmed as the sessions were recorded and has won the top award for best music documentary at the Tele Awards in Los Angeles, CA.
T.G. Sheppard's ardor for life and unceasing energy allow him to fulfill his unrelenting passion for music. "Legendary Friends & Country Duets" is the latest means by which he shares that passion with the rest of us.