Original ‘Mouseketeer’ Mickey Rooney Jr. dead at 77

Mickey Rooney Jr., an actor and musician best known for being an original “Mouseketeer” and for playing in country legend Willie Nelson’s band, as well as being the eldest son of famous Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney, passed away Saturday at the age of 77, Fox News reported.

Paul Peterson, a longtime friend and fellow original “Mouseketeer” and advocate on behalf of former child stars, announced Rooney’s death on social media and said his friend has passed “peacefully” at his Arizona home, though he did not provide a cause of death.

Sad news to share

In a post to Facebook on Saturday, Peterson wrote, “Mickey Rooney, Jr peacefully passed away this morning in Arizona. For the past many years, he lived with and was in the care of Chrissie Brown and her family.

“I first met Mickey, the oldest of nine siblings sired by his famous father when he and Timmy were hired by Disney to be Mouseketeers in 1955,” he continued. “Mickey Junior was tall and talented. He could sing, dance and act … and get in trouble. We three were fired for Conduct Unbecoming a Mouse!”

“Mickey Junior was the personification of ‘damaged goods.’ He gave all he could. I was born on the same day as Mickey’s father and ‘The Mic’ gave me, unsolicited mind you, the most useful advice I ever got. It is one of my greatest sorrows that he didn’t do the same for his son,” Peterson added. “Mickey Rooney Junior. Rest In Peace at last. We will see to your wishes.”

Peterson’s post included a link to a GoFundMe page on behalf of his organization, A Minor Consideration, to help raise funds for a memorial to former child actors, many of whom later experience substantial problems as adults.

Original “Mouseketeer” turned musician

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rooney Jr. was born in 1945 in Birmingham, Alabama, as Joseph Yule III to father Mickey Rooney (real name Joe Yule Jr.) and mother Betty Jane Baker, a singer and former Miss Alabama.

Ten years later, Rooney Jr. and younger brother Tim were hired as backup cast members for ABC’s new “The Mickey Mouse Club” show — as was Peterson — but all three were later fired from the program due to backstage shenanigans.

Though Rooney Jr. had acting abilities, it was music that helped make him a star after his grandmother taught him to play a few chords on a ukulele when he was 11, an acquired skill he put to use on the guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, and keyboard.

Rooney Jr. and brothers Tim and Teddy would eventually form a band and Rooney Jr. played in other bands, including with Willie Nelson, as well as wrote songs of his own, and went on to also appear in several movies over the decades.

Drug and alcohol addiction, a life turned to Christianity

As with many other former child stars, Rooney Jr. battled alcohol and drug addiction for much of his life but eventually got clean and devoted his life to Christ with an evangelical ministry.

He had two wives over the years — Playboy playmate Merci Montello in 1972 and then Laura Hollander in 1986 until she died in 2006 — but since then was partnered with Chrissie Brown, a singer and musician, until his own death. “He was a wonderful man,” Brown told THR. “The last 18 years with me and my family, he’s been an angel.”

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