9 March 1936, Natchez, Louisiana, USA, but raised in Ferriday, Louisiana. Gilley is a cousin to Jerry Lee Lewis and the evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. He grew up with his cousins and his mother, a waitress, who saved her money to buy him a piano when he was 12 years old. Gilley left Louisiana when he was 17 and started working in bars in Houston. His first record was Tell Me Why for the aptly named Minor label in 1953. He had regional success in 1959 with Is It Wrong?, with Kenny Rogers on bass. In 1964 he started a record label, Astro, in Houston and again did well locally with Lonely Wine; the resulting album is now valued at £200 a copy. In 1968 he signed with Louisianas Paula label and had short-lived success with Now I Can Live Again. He was heard at the Des Nesadel club in Houston by Sherwood Cryer, a local businessman. Cryer was impressed with Gilleys performance and invited him to his club,...
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