Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Mickey Gilley, “True Love Ways”

“True Love Ways”

Mickey Gilley

Written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty


#1 (1 week)

July 19, 1980

Mickey Gilley had reached the heights of country music superstardom in the seventies.  Recording for Playboy Records, he scored a string of No. 1 singles in the middle of the decade, including enduring hits like “Room Full of Roses” and “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time.” He swept the ACM Awards in 1976, taking home Entertainer, Male Vocalist, Single, Song, and Album of the Year.

But toward the end of the decade, the hitmaking pace had slowed down. Playboy was bough out by Epic, and he transitioned to their roster. His first four singles for Epic all made the top twenty, with two going top ten.  As the new decade began, he rode the Urban Cowboy sound and reimagined versions of early rock era hits to reach new career heights.

This run started with “True Love Ways,” a Buddy Holly cover that Holly’s widow told Gilley was the best version of the song ever recorded.  It’s hard to disagree with her.  His more mature vocal style fits the “we’re in this forever and ever” lyric differently, and it comes off as an enduring commitment to a relationship that has already gone much of the distance, rather than a starry eyed ballad of young love.

Mickey Gilley’s cosmopolitan approach to his recording style was a perfect fit for the crossover sound of radio at the time, and eight of his next nine singles would also go to No. 1.  The next one got there so quickly that it joined “True Love Ways” in the top five.  Because “True Love Ways” didn’t go to No. 1 on Radio & Records and his next single did, it’s the next entry in this series.

“True Love Ways” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. It definitely helped that Mickey was able to do this with a lot of style. Some would argue that this is still very much a “countrypolitan” recording, but so be it.

    I should also point out that “True Love Ways” was also a Top 20 pop hit in 1965 for the British duo Peter and Gordon (to wit, Peter Asher [who later went on to produce for James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt] and Gordon Waller).

  2. Mickey Gilley achieved a fairly strong regional presence before he made much impact on the national charts. I remember hearing some of his Paula and GRT recordings during the late 1960s and early 1970s and thinking that there had to be be a breakthrough for him sooner or later. Shortly after “Room Full of Roses” hit for him in 1974, I saw him in live performance and he was definitely fan-friendly after his appearances, signing autographs and chatting with the fans

  3. I was always too eager to write off Gilley as a lesser talent, just an Urban Cowboy, for reasons I can’t quite justify even to myself.

    A year or so ago, I bought his “Ten Years of Hits” on vinyl at a used record shop which forced me to take notice of his significant body of work.

    This particular hit is just a beautiful performance and production. Gilley certainly found his lane with this sophisticated cross-over sound.

    Another entertainer from this era who exuded confidence and sincerity.

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