The name Gilley’s means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, as namesake of Texas Country music legend Mickey Gilley, host of the American movie classic Urban Cowboy and more recently as home to some of Dallas’ most spectacular special events. Depending on where you first heard of Gilley’s, you might have very different concepts of what happens at the world famous Gilley’s Dallas. With so much Texas history behind our brand, Gilley’s is the ideal place to experience Texas traditions like live music, dancing, bull riding, barbecue and of course, cold Shiner Bock beer.
Our namesake, Mickey Gilley, is a true Texas Country music legend, both as a musician and as the creator of the original Gilley’s. The original location hosted nightly live Texas Country music, two-step dancing and other classic country western entertainment. The honky-tonk was so recognizable that eventually it became the location for the movie Urban Cowboy, featuring John Travolta as a country boy Bud Davis, who moved to Houston and became a regular at Gilley’s to feel at home. Bud meets Sissy, a cowgirl, and they fall in love and suddenly get married. Their marriage is shattered when Bud sees Sissy allegedly with con man Wes, who teaches her how to ride the mechanical bull…and plans to rob Gilley’s. When a bull-riding contest is announced, Bud decides to sign up to save both Gilley’s and his marriage. Urban Cowboy is a classic American film and is arguably as famous as the television show Dallas; DFW’s other claim to television fame. Fortunately Gilley’s Dallas owns the most important piece Urban Cowboy movie memorabilia, “El Torro” the famous mechanical bull ridden by John Travolta.
Whenever visitors from outside Texas come to Gilley’s Dallas, they always ask the same questions: “Where’s the mechanical bull?”, “When can I see live country music?” and “Can I take dancing lessons?”. People want to have their own Urban Cowboy experience, and that brings them from all over the country to Gilley’s Dallas. This incarnation of Gilley’s was created in 2004 with the intention of recreating that movie experience in adjacent to the Dallas Convention Center, where thousands of Dallas’ annual convention guests and local residents could enjoy live Texas Country music, cheap drinks, bull rides and other western-themed entertainment. Gilley’s Dallas is a very large facility and it quickly became obvious that we could create multiple venues inside the 90,000+ sq ft complex. Gilley’s Dallas built a name for itself as a honky-tonk on Friday & Saturday nights and as a versatile special event venue the rest of the time.
In 2007 Gilley’s Dallas was approached by one of the largest entertainment productions companies in the world, AEG Live, to create a booking deal for the largest event space in the facility. The space was renamed to South Side Ballroom and AEG Live began producing live music concerts from popular national touring acts. AEG Live books shows of many different genres and introduced the facility to a diverse new audience of live music fans. Eventually Gilley’s added 3 additional live music venues to the complex, The Loft, South Side Music Hall and the new restaurant/venue The Jack Daniel’s Saloon.
Because so many different events take place at the complex, all of the venues now feature more types of live music than just Texas Country music; but we still have a deep commitment to the local music scene and to everyone’s favorite Gilley’s traditions. Our answer to balancing the needs of so many special events, concerts and other events taking place at the complex with the honky-tonk legacy of Mickey Gilley was to create the Jack Daniel’s Saloon. Now every Friday and Saturday night our guests can experience the Gilley’s legacy, live music, bull rides, great food and cheap, cold drinks in the Jack Daniel’s Saloon.