Billy Joe Royal, a pop and country star best known for the 1965 hit “Down in the Boondocks,” died Tuesday, October 6, 2015 at the age of 73
He passed away in his sleep unexpectedly at his home in North Carolina and multiple reports confirm.
One of the best teenage melodramas was Billy Joe Royal’s highly emotional “Down In The Boondocks”, most listeners not knowing that boondocks were undeveloped rural areas.
After getting a brief taste of success, Royal reportedly moved through multiple smaller labels before settling down with Atlantic Records in Nashville.
Billy Joe Royal, known for the 1965 hit “Down in the Boondocks,” has died at age 73. According to NBC’s Nashville affiliate WSMV, Royal unexpectedly died in his sleep at his home in North Carolina but the true cause has not been determined. His publicist, Brent Taylor said adding that Mr. Royal had performed at a concert as recently as Sept. 24 and had a full touring schedule lined up for the fall. Mr. Royal, who sang with a tremulous tenor and an intense delivery, had his biggest hits with several songs written and produced by Joe South. The top seller was “Down in the Boondocks,” the bitter lament of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks in love with a rich girl, which reached No. 9 on the pop charts.
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Singer Billy Joe Royal, who scored a memorable Top 10 pop hit in 1965 with “Down in the Boondocks” and later became a country star, died Oct. 6 at his home in Morehead City, N.C. He was 73.
He died in his sleep, his stepson Trey Rivenbark said.
Born in Valdosta, Ga., on April 3, 1942, Royal was exposed to country music at a young age, singing with his uncle’s band.
“They had a radio show in Valdosta, and they let me sing,” he said in a 2010 interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And for some reason, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. I just wanted to be in music.”
By the time he was in high school in Marietta, he was singing with a rock band called the Corvettes. Influenced by Elvis Presley, Royal swiveled his hips so much during a school show that officials banned the Corvettes from playing at assemblies.
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“Kenny Rogers lived down the street from me,” Royal recalled, “and Kenny was tearing the world up singing country music. So was B.J. Thomas.”
Royal moved back to Georgia and eventually landed in Nashville, where he worked to revive his career. It looked like he might have a big hit in 1986 with “Burned Like a Rocket.” But just as the song was gaining in popularity, the Challenger space shuttle tragedy occurred. The song had nothing to do with space travel, but given its title, radio stations stopped playing it.
Royal went on to do well with country songs such as “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow,” “Tell It Like It Is” and “‘Till I Can’t Take It Anymore.”
In 2010, he announced he would end his last official tour with a concert in Marietta, not far from the school that once banned him. He remembered his time there, before national fame, with fondness.
“Everybody knew everybody, and everybody liked everybody,” he said in the 2010 Journal-Constitution interview. “It was the greatest place to grow up in the world. All we ever did was laugh.”
Royal is survived by his daughter, Savannah Royal; mother Mary Royal; brother Jack Royal; stepsons Trey and Joey Rivenbark; and two grandchildren.
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