Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll recall a bar fight that helped start a worldwide country music craze.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Sunday at precisely 6:04 p.m. on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you. And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KXT’s The Paul Slavens Show, heard Sunday night’s at 8.
- Click the player to listen to the podcast:
- Expanded online version:
On September 12, 1978, Aaron Latham’s story “The Ballad of the Urban Cowboy: America’s Search for True Grit” appeared in Esquire magazine. In the article, Latham profiled the world’s largest honky-tonk, Gilley’s in Pasadena, Texas. Operated by Sherwood Cryer and country singer Mickey Gilley, the club could hold as many as 6,000 patrons. Latham described two of Gilley’s regular customers, Dew and Betty, who broke up after a fight over the club’s mechanical bull. Latham eventually developed the story into a screenplay for the hit movie Urban Cowboy, which featured songs by Kenny Rogers, Linda Ronstadt, and Johnny Lee.
Dew and Betty, the Gilley’s patrons who originally inspired the screenplay, became Bud and Sissy, portrayed in the film by John Travolta and Debra Winger. The enormous popularity of the Urban Cowboy movie and soundtrack helped spark a worldwide interest in country music throughout the 1980s.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll learn how a country radio station helped launch the career of a rock and roll legend.