Billy Joe Royal had several pop hits in the 60's, some of which were written and produced by a good friend who had a few hits of his own as a performer.
He was born in Valdosta, Georgia in 1942, and raised in Marietta, Georgia, just outside of Atlanta. At age 11 he appeared on his uncle's radio show. In high school he formed his own band, the Corvettes, and performed at various venues around Atlanta as a teenager. He crossed paths more than once with Joe South, Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, and others who were performing in the South at that time. Royal learned to play guitar, piano, and drums.
Billy Joe made his first recording in 1962. He found work in Cincinnati and moved there in 1963. His old friend and former roommate, Joe South, called and asked him to come to Atlanta to record a song that South had written titled Down In The Boondocks. Originally intended as a demo, the song ended up at Columbia where executives liked it, and released it. It was the breakthrough record that Billy Joe Royal needed, and landed in the top ten in 1965. He followed a short time later with I Knew You When, and then I've Got To Be Somebody. All three records made the pop top forty in the mid-60's, and all had been written and produced by Joe South. Royal began performing with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars.
In 1969 Royal had another huge hit, this time with Cherry Hill Park. Around the same time Joe South had two hits of his own as a recording artist: Games People Play and Walk A Mile In My Shoes. The music scene was changing. Billy Joe accepted some acting assignments and worked in Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe quite a bit throughout the 70's.
The 80's found him still recording, mostly in the country market. His Burned Like A Rocket was the first of several successful records that he put on the country charts.
Billy Joe Royal died in his sleep in Morehead City, North Carolina, in 2015. The record with which he is most identified continues to be his first big hit, written and produced by his good friend Joe South, Down In The Boondocks.
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