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Billy Joe Royal

Best known for his country-flavored rock hit "Down in the Boondocks," Billy Joe Royal had a long career that saw him become one of the first pop performers to successfully revive his commercial fortunes by turning to straight country music. Although he never had another hit as successful as "Down in the Boondocks," he racked up about 15 singles that hit the country charts over the course of the 1980s.

Royal was born into a family of musical entertainers in Valdosta, Georgia, and made his debut on his uncle's radio show at the age of 11. He learned to play steel guitar and joined the Georgia Jubilee in Atlanta at 14, performing with Joe South, Jerry Reed, and Ray Stevens, among several other artists. Royal had his own rock & roll band in high school and was regularly singing around Atlanta by the age of 16. He also spent time in Savannah, where he was influenced by African-American vocal styles and began to develop his distinctive vocal sound. Performing at a nightclub that also booked Sam Cooke and other African-American stars, Royal observed their vocal moves and began to practice them on his own time. In 1962, he recorded an independent single that went unnoticed. Royal and South roomed together for a time, and two or three years later South contacted him with a song he wanted Royal to sing as a demo, in the hope that Gene Pitney would record it. Royal flew from Cincinnati (where he was working at the time) to Atlanta and cut "Down in the Boondocks," whose churchy echo resulted from the use during recording of a large septic tank that had been dragged into the studio.

The demo ended up at Columbia, and the label signed Royal to a six-year deal. The song became Royal's breakthrough single, reaching number nine on the pop charts and briefly making the vocalist into a teen idol. Following its success, Royal had a string of lesser hits, including the Top 40 pop singles "I Knew You When," "I've Got to Be Somebody," and "Cherry Hill Park." By the end of the decade, Royal's star waned, and he became a regular performer in Las Vegas and around Lake Tahoe. He also did a bit of acting on television, in feature films, and in commercials. In 1978, he recorded a cover of "Under the Boardwalk" and scored a minor hit.

The wrong-side-of-the-tracks theme of "Down in the Boondocks" was a familiar one to country audiences, and during the early '80s Royal worked on establishing himself as a country artist. In 1984, he broke through when he recorded the Gary Burr composition "Burned Like a Rocket"; it was picked up by the Atlantic label, which signed Royal to a contract. The single became a hit and reached the country Top Ten in early 1986. Over the next two years he had a string of Top 40 hits, breaking into the Top Ten in late 1987 once again with "I'll Pin a Note on Your Pillow." In 1989, Royal released the album Tell It Like Is; the title cut, a remake of the venerable soul standard, became his biggest hit, peaking at number two, while the album itself stayed in the Top 15 for over a year. By 1990, Royal's style of pop-inflected country had been replaced by neo-traditional honky tonk at the top of the charts, and his popularity began to decline. He continued to have minor hits into 1992 and toured into the 2000s. Royal launched a comeback with the 1998 album Stay Close to Home on the Intersound label, following up with the independent release Now and Then, Then and Now in 2001. "I know exactly what George Jones feels. But I know exactly what Ray Charles feels, too," Royal once said, and by the beginning of the new century, a host of reissues of Royal's work testified to his status as a vocal craftsman whose success transcended genre. ~ Sandra Brennan & James Manheim
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Down In The Boondocks

1. Pollyanna

2. Leaning On You

3. Heartaches And Teardrops

4. Funny How Time Slips Away

5. My Fondest Memories

6. Down In The Boondocks

7. I Knew You When

8. Those Railroad Tracks In Between

9. Steal Away

10. Oh, What A Night

11. King Of Fools

12. I've Got To Be Somebody

x

Track List: Cherry Hill Park

1. You Can't Manufacture Love

2. Mama Song

3. Helping Hand

4. Ain't It the Truth

5. Down Home Lovin'

6. Cherry Hill Park

7. Burning a Hole

8. If I Had It to Do Again

9. Pick Up the Pieces

10. You Can Make Me Feel Good

11. Children

x

Track List: His First Gospel Album

1. Hard Rock To Roll

2. Hello Moses

3. Hallelujah Ground

4. Can You Do That

5. Rock Me Lord

6. Pictures From God

7. Since Jesus Came Into My Life

8. I Know Jesus

9. Singing All The Way To Heaven

10. Water The Flowers

11. Rock Of Ages Rock Me Again

12. Amen

x

Track List: 5 Top 10's

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. Tell It Like It Is

3. 'Til I Can't Take It Any More

4. Love Has No Right

5. I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow

x

Track List: Hard Rock To Roll

1. Rockin' Robin

2. Lying Eyes Of Love

3. I Wish I Had You Back Again

4. C C Rider

5. I Can't Stop Now

6. Hard Rock To Roll

7. Lay Me Down A Truck Driving Man

8. Beer Bottle Brown

9. God Please Send Your Angels

10. Little Bitty Pretty One

x

Track List: American Legend

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. I Knew You When

3. Cherry Hill Park

4. Hush

5. Tulsa

6. Campfire Girls

7. (Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

8. Lavender Blue

9. Drift Away

10. Nobody But You

x

Track List: Royal Hits!

1. To Love Somebody

2. Stand By Me

3. Down In The Boondocks

4. Cherry Hill Park

5. Steal Away

6. Please Come To Boston

7. On Broadway

8. Hush

9. I Knew You When

10. Tulsa

11. Save The Last Dance For Me

12. Up On The Road

13. I Gotta Be Somebody

14. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

15. Campfire Girls

x

Track List: 28 Golden Classics

1. Please Come To Boston

2. Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song

3. How Sweet It Is

4. So Into You

5. Let Your Love Flow

6. Another Saturday Night

7. This Magic Moment

8. Save The Last Dance For Me

9. You Got A Hold On Me

10. My Girl

11. Down In The Boondocks

12. Cherry Hill Park

13. I Knew You When

14. Up On The Roof

15. On Broadway

16. Stand By Me

17. Hush

18. If I Could

19. To Love Somebody

20. Rose Garden

21. Tulsa

22. Campfire Girls

23. I Gotta Be Somebody

24. Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

25. Lavender Blue

26. Drift Away

27. Nobody But You

28. Spanish Harlem

x

Track List: The Royal Treatment

1. I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow

2. Give 'Em My Number

3. He'll Have To Go

4. Look What You've Done To My Heart

5. Let It Rain

6. It's Who's In Your Heart

7. Out Of Sight And On My Mind

8. It Keeps Right On Hurtin'

9. She Don't Cry Like She Used To

10. A Place For The Heartache

x

Track List: Down In The Boondocks - 20 Great Songs

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. I Knew You When

3. I've Got To Be Somebody

4. Campfire Girls

5. Hush

6. Cherry Hill Park

7. Tulsa

8. On Broadway

9. Up On The Roof

10. Drift Away

11. Stand By Me

12. Please Come To Boston

13. Lavender Blue

14. (I Never Promised You A) Rose Garden

15. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

16. If I Could

17. To Love Somebody

18. Nobody But You

19. Spanish Harlem

20. Save The Last Dance For Me

x

Track List: Country Masters: Makin' Believe

1. Amanda

2. Fox On The Run

3. Middle Age Crazy

4. Your Cheatin' Heart

5. Makin' Believe

6. Luchenback Texas (The Basics Of Love)

7. Bring It On Home

8. Take This Job And Shove It

9. I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

10. Solitary Man

11. Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want To Get Over You)

12. If We're Not Back In Love On Monday

13. Your Man Loves You

14. Broken Down In Tiny Pieces

15. Your Cheatin' Heart

16. Lawdy Miss Clawdy

17. You're Right, I'm Left, She' Gone

18. She Never Knew Me

19. Lucille

20. Fox On The Run

x

Track List: The Best Of Billy Joe Royal

1. Tell It Like It Is

2. Down In The Boondocks

3. 'Til I Can't Take It Anymore

4. I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow

5. Love Has No Right

6. It Keeps Right On Hurtin'

7. I Knew You When

8. Hush

9. Baby Have Mercy On You

10. One Too Many

x

Track List: Simple Abundance - Music of Comfort and Joy

1. Tell It Like It Is

3. 'Til I Can't Take It Any More

4. I'll Pin a Note On Your Pillow

5. Love Has No Right

6. It Keeps Right On Hurtin'

x

Track List: Very Best Of: The Columbia Years 1965-1972

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. I Knew You When

3. I've Got To Be Somebody

4. It's A Good Time

5. Heart's Desire

7. Yo-Yo

8. Everything Turned Blue

9. The Greatest Love

10. These Are Not My People

11. Hush

13. Storybook Children

14. Gabriel

16. Cherry Hill Park

17. Me Without You

18. Every Night

20. Poor Little Pearl

21. We Go Back

22. Family

23. Child Of Mine

x

Track List: Drift Away

1. Drift Away

2. Stand By Me

3. Campfire Girls

4. Rose Garden

5. Up On The Roof

6. If I Could

7. Lavender Blue

8. Nobody But You

9. On Broadway

10. Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head

11. Spanish Harlem

12. To Love Somebody

x

Track List: Stay Close To Home

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. Stay Close To Home

3. Tell It Like It Is

4. 'Til I Can't Take It Anymore

5. She's Making A Comeback

6. I Knew You When

7. I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow

8. Hush

9. One Too Many

10. Love Has No Right

11. Baby Have Mercy On You

12. It Keeps Right On Hurtin'

x

Track List: Down In The Boondocks / Cherry Hill Park

1. Pollyanna

2. Leaning On You

3. Heartaches And Teardrops

4. Funny How Time Slips Away

5. My Fondest Memories

6. Down In The Boondocks

7. I Knew You When

8. Those Railroad Tracks In Between

9. Steal Away

10. Oh What A Night

11. King Of Fools

12. I've Got To Be Somebody

13. You Can't Manufacture Love

14. Mama Song

15. Helping Hand

16. Ain't It The Truth

17. Down Home Lovin'

18. Cherry Hill Park

19. Burning A Hole

20. If I Had It To Do Again

21. Pick Up The Pieces

22. You Can Make Me Feel Good

23. Children

24. Hush

25. Heart's Desire

x

Track List: Tell It Like It Is

1. Tell It Like It Is

2. Kiss And Say Goodbye

3. Slip Away

4. He Don't Know

5. Cross My Heart And Hope To Try

6. Love Has No Right

7. The Truth Is I Lied

8. Till I Can't Take It Anymore

9. I Was Losing You

10. What's The Matter Baby

11. Love Is A Fulltime Job

x

Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Down In The Boondocks

2. I Knew You When

3. King Of Fools

4. I've Got To Be Somebody

5. Heartaches And Teardrops

6. Cherry Hill Park

7. Steal Away

8. Hush

9. Save The Last Dance For Me

10. Yo-Yo

Comments

Report as inappropriate
perfectly balanced voice
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scoleman44
love all his music
Report as inappropriate
I believe he died this year but I could be wrong. I need to Google it.
Report as inappropriate
IS HE STILL LIVING?
Report as inappropriate
I found him as an artist with his hit Pin a Note, but after that I was hooked. I really enjoyed his unique style.
Report as inappropriate
Billy Joe will always be # 1 in my life. I love every song he ever sang! He has a very unique voice!
Report as inappropriate
Please play more Billy Joe Royal!
Report as inappropriate
cbalsega
Sr., Joe I miss u both: Have long distance but cannot call either of U. Jr. & Hillbillie make me so proud, u 2 would b sew 2. No grandbabies but I'm still not Job. Till there r no more tears in Heaven tell all my dear sweet loved 1 I'll c u all on the other side!
Report as inappropriate
Could you please play more Billy Joe Royal. Thanks.
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I love his song, "Til I Can Make It On My Own"! Great lyrics.
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I need to hear Burn Like a Rocket- love that song.. PLEASE!!! THANKS!!
Report as inappropriate
If you let your heart listen in addition to your ears, you find Billy Joe Royal is one of the greats. His songs were more then just a beat, the words meant something.
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Oh What A Night by Billy Joe Royal...lous y wouldn't you agree Dee Kelley ?
Report as inappropriate
that was early 80's where are they now?
wiekot@yahoo . c o m
Report as inappropriate
He has a lovely daughter too, met her in Daytona played her Down in the boondocks on my guitar, wishI got to know her better and love his song note on your pillow Wiekot@yahoo . c o m
Report as inappropriate
Ol Royal is a vocal gymnast! His voice flows through the air like a trapeze artist. His voice, his style, has never been duplicated.
Report as inappropriate
nenamorg13
I LOVE HIS MUSIC!! HE HAS AN AWESOME VOICE!! I ESPECIALLY LOVE HIS VERSION OF HE'LL HAVE TO GO...BUT THERE ARE SSSSSSOOOOO MANY MORE MMMMMM LOVE YOU BILLY JOE!!
Report as inappropriate
mpmizell
I love his music, lyrics, and of course him. I just don't understand why we do not hear more from him. A great voice like yours should be on 24/7. I don't think the radios should ever stop playing your music. And "Burn Like a Rocket", why can't we hear it now? It has been years since the accident. Can't we play it more now. PLEASE? I understand why you did what you did after the accident and I respect you for that decision. God bless and keep you and yours.
Report as inappropriate
Love him!! Please play more by him!
Report as inappropriate
hes wright love has know wright .I love all hes songs from that album tell it like it is Album 1991
Report as inappropriate
lockpker
I sure would like to hear If the Juke box Took Teardrops From "Billy Joe Royal Super Hits"
Report as inappropriate
HE IS THE GREATEST
Report as inappropriate
I love his music-he's the greatest!

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