Inside Country Music’s Polarizing ‘Urban Cowboy’ Movement

June 13, 2015 - fall Denim

Jon Cryer’s iconic Duckie Dale from a Eighties John Hughes classical Pretty in Pink competence not seem to have a lot in common with a dancehall on a fringes of Southeast Texas. But we could couple one object — that leather-stringed Western bolo tie cinched loosely around Duckie’s neck — directly to a honky-tonk named Gilley’s and a film that brought western conform and nation song into a mainstream. This year, a 1980 John Travolta film Urban Cowboy celebrates a 35th anniversary and CMT is chronicling a arise of a Urban Cowboy transformation in a time-warping new documentary.

Urban Cowboy: The Rise and Fall of Gilley’s, premiering on CMT on Saturday, Jun 13th, during 9:00 p.m., explores a origins of Gilley’s and a implications of how inhabitant attention, followed by prevalent commercialization, can be a lifetime bonus for some — and a rain for others. Directed by a same group that produces a innovative 30 for 30 array on ESPN, the documentary facilities interviews with Gilley, Travolta and others who were constituent to a Urban Cowboy scene. It also looks during a real-life “urban cowboys” that desirous a film — many of whom went behind to their normal lives on a oil supply while a rest of America became smitten with each tack on Travolta’s collar and finally welcomed nation song into a mainstream.

Based on a 1979 Esquire Magazine story, Urban Cowboy told a story of a nation song adore event between Travolta’s Bud and Debra Winger’s Sissy in a city of Pasadena, Texas. The transformation was all set in Gilley’s, where real-life “Gilleyrats,” as they affectionately named themselves, spent their nights and income dancing, celebration drink and roving a bar’s famed automatic bull. At a core was singer-pianist Mickey Gilley (a cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis), who invested in a bar with his business partner, Sherwood Cryer, when his song career had stalled.

When Urban Cowboy premiered, however, Gilley’s career reignited.

“It launched me into a stratosphere,” Gilley tells Rolling Stone Country of Urban Cowboy. Suddenly, a charismatic crooner started logging Number One hits, including “Stand by Me” from a Urban Cowboy soundtrack, that also featured marks by a Charlie Daniels Band and Kenny Rogers. Like other films whose measure spawned a transformation (O Brother, Where Art Thou? nudged Americana adult a charts), a song and a conform took on lives of their own.

While a disco aesthetic, a accepted song character during a time, was all about indulging hedonism and dancing your cares divided while wearing parsimonious and/or brief polyester pieces and soaring boots as unpleasant as they were high, a Wranglers, cowboy boots and leather accessories of Urban Cowboy supposing an authentic and all-American alternative. To many, it was a lovely change.

“I was in an conveyor in Nashville one day behind in Eighties,” recalls Gilley. “There was a man on there who said, ‘I wish to appreciate we for all we did for Western wear.’ And we said, ‘You need to appreciate John Travolta. He’s a one who brought it front and center.’ Every night when we go to bed, we appreciate John Travolta for gripping my career alive.”

Mickey Gilley
Mickey Gilley in 1980. Kirk West/Archive Photos

Indeed, a spotlight from Travolta’s Urban Cowboy authorised Gilley to make Gilley’s into a sell machine, peddling all from branded rags to panties, and branch a onetime internal honky-tonk into a full-scale informative church where wannabe cowboys flocked in their frail new denim, looking for emancipation on a behind of a automatic longhorn (which, also, was branded and sold). In addition, wardrobe pieces like a bolo tie and cowboy boots went from being mocked as hillbilly to haute couture. Ralph Lauren collections from a early Eighties boasted thousand-dollar level dresses and thick china belt buckles.

“It was substantially my favorite film knowledge to do as an actor,” says Travolta in a documentary.

Not everyone, however, was thrilled. Actor Barry Corbin, one of a Gilleyrats who also had a purpose in a film, mourns what a popularity did to a club. “It became something wholly opposite when that film came out,” he says. “It became a traveller attraction, mecca. All that place was a drink joint, it’s all it was.”

As nation song began receiving a mainstream courtesy it had always lacked, Music Row was scrambling to find a approach to support to a fast flourishing audience, attempting to furnish some-more permitted nation sounds to compare a demand. Johnny Lee’s “Lookin’ for Love,” from a soundtrack, was an evident and outrageous hit, reaching Number One on a nation singles chart, as did other soft-country transport like Gayle’s “Too Many Lovers” and Dolly Parton and Rogers’ “Islands in a Stream.” Gilley himself had a fibre of Number Ones, buoyed by his connection with a film.

This renouned code of nation song was a ideal change of what was once discharged as strikebreaker Americana with a discriminating cocktail sensibility. Though their sounds were inherently opposite it’s a accurate same settlement that saw Garth Brooks and Shania Twain to a tip decades later, and then, Luke Bryan and Taylor Swift.

But conform is fickle. The diluted nation song of Urban Cowboy became a guilty pleasure, and bars opposite a nation eventually ditched their Gilley’s-made bulls, while congregation traded in their cowboy boots for preserve sandals and late-Eighties trends. Gilley’s itself burnt to a belligerent in 1990 in a questionable fire.

Still Urban Cowboy leftovers sojourn — like Duckie’s bolo tie. Even today, as Americana song seeps deeper into renouned culture, a Western wear cultured is saying a resurgence, with brands like Pendleton Woolen Mills and epic beards appearing everywhere from New York to Paris. There’s even a bed and breakfast in Brooklyn (and, soon, East Nashville) called a Urban Cowboy BB.

Travolta, too, went out of fashion, until he staged a quip in 1994’s Pulp Fiction, artwork himself once again into a informative iconography with his Uma Thurman Chuck Berry-boogie dance scene. Around his neck?

A bolo tie.

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