Billy Joe Royal (April 3, 1942 - October 6, 2015) was a pop/country singer who became famous during the 1960s. A veteran performer with a career spanning over four decades, he made his mark in both country and pop with his trademark soulful vocals and an intense, dramatic style that combined influences from pop, rock and roll, R&B, and country.
Born in Valdosta, Georgia and raised in Marietta, Royal began his music career in his teens as a regular on The Georgia Jubilee, a radio show that also featured Joe South, Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, and other Atlanta-based musicians. He also achieved local fame as a member of the house band at the Bamboo Ranch in Savannah where he met and was strongly influenced by such top R&B artists as Sam Cooke. After hearing a demo of the Joe South-penned country-infused rocker, "Down In The Boondocks," Columbia offered Royal a contract and released the song. The success of "Down In The Boondocks" also helped him land a spot on the prestigious Dick Clark Caravan of Stars, a package tour that also included Tom Jones, Peter & Gordon, and other top acts.
Royal made his debut on the Pop/Rock charts in 1965 with "Down In The Boondocks," which became a Top 10 hit and his signature song. This smash was followed by a string of other Joe South-penned hits, "I Knew You When" (1965), "I've Got To Be Somebody" (1965), "Heart's Desire" (1966), and "Hush" (1967), the latter of which also became a hit for Deep Purple in 1968. Royal other hits also included "Campfire Girls" (1966), the naughty "Cherry Hill Park" (1969), "Tulsa" (1971), and his cover of The Drifters' "Under The Boardwalk" (1978).
Royal later re-emerged as a country star and made his debut on the Country charts in 1985 with the Top 10 hit, "Burned Like A Rocket." This song was the first track on the 1985 album, "Looking Ahead," but the single was pulled by Atlantic Records after the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster of January 28, 1986. A long string of hits followed through 1992 that also included "I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow" (1987), "Out Of Sight On My Mind" (1988), "Love Has No Right" (1989), "Till I Can't Take It Anymore" (1989), and Royal's cover of Aaron Neville's "Tell It Like It Is" (1989).
Over the years, Royal continued to tour and perform actively throughout most of 2015. His many honors and accolades included being inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988.
- For more information about Billy Joe Royal's life and career, visit his official website.
- Billy Joe Royal pays tribute to his idol, Sam Cooke, and recalls his words of encouragement early in his career in an interview with classicbands.com.
- The New York Times remembers Billy Joe Royal.
To listen to a song clip, click any song title that has a speaker icon. This will take you to a list of links to CD and/or MP3 product pages from one or more online merchants that have sound samples.
Billy Joe Royal
- Cherry Hill Park 1969
(This highly suggestive song, which is mild by today's standards, was considered to be pretty risque in its day.)
- Down In The Boondocks 1965
- I Knew You When 1965
(This song later also became a hit for Donny Osmond (1972) and Linda Ronstadt (1983).)
- I've Got To Be Somebody 1965
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