Thursday, October 8, 2015

Billy Joe Royal

I never had the pleasure of meeting or the opportunity to see Billy Joe Royal perform live in concert ... but based on all the mail I've ever received over the years of doing Forgotten Hits, by ALL accounts, there's never been a nicer or more appreciative artist to take the stage.  

Billy Joe passed away on Tuesday (October 6th) at the age of 73.  He died in his sleep.  

Royal hit The National Top 40 with his first three hits ... "Down In The Boondocks" (#6, 1965); "I Knew You When" (#12, 1965) and "I've Got To Be Somebody" (#33, 1965).  Along the way he made songwriter Joe South quite a bit of money, too, as South penned all of these hits.  Royal also recorded Joe's "Yo Yo" (#111, 1966 ... and later a #1 Hit of The Osmonds) and "Hush" (#48, 1967 ... and later a hit for Deep Purple, #4, 1968) ... along with several other tracks over the years.  (In all, nine of Royal's 16 charted Billboard hits were written by Joe South.  South would go on to have some hit under his own name in the late '60's and early '70's as well ... "Games People Play" reached #8 in 1969, "Don't It Make You Want To Go Home" went to #41 in 1969 and "Walk A Mile In My Shoes" just missed The Top Ten, peaking at #11 in 1970.  South passed away a few years ago in 2012).  

In 1969, Billy Joe Royal had a sizeable hit with a "comeback" record of sorts when "Cherry Hill Park" climbed all the way to #15 in all three national trades.  

Ironically we had just run a letter from Forgotten Hits Reader Jim Foster, who was very excited and looking forward to seeing Royal (along with Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, Joe Puerta of Ambrosia, John Cafferty, John Elefante of Kansas, Kyle Vincent of The Bay City Rollers and Ron Dante) perform at The Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson, Tennessee, this Saturday Night as part of the Kool 103 Caravan Of Stars concert .  The very next day he was gone.  

We received quite a bit of mail yesterday as news of Royal's passing spread.  We can't run them all but here are some of the first ones that came in ...  

Kent ...   
Scott Shannon just announced that Billy Joe Royal died.  Here's my favorite Billy Joe Royal song.     
Frank B.

Hello Kent -  
I am sure you have heard of the passing of Billy Joe Royal yesterday.  I will send you some concert photos I shot of him to use them on your blog.  
Take care -   
Tom Apathy  
Thanks, Tom ... as always, great work.  (kk)

I'm sure by now you've heard that Billy Joe Royal passed away in his sleep on the morning of October 6th. I met Billy Joe Royal last year at another of the KOOL 103 Caravan Of Stars events. Without a doubt, he was one of the nicest performers I have ever met. He took the time to answer all of the questions I had, had great recall of memory regarding events long in the past, and didn't act like I was bothering him at all with so many questions. He loved every minute of it, and so did I. From everything I've read online, I've never seen anyone who ever had a bad word to say about him, and he never had a bad word to say about anyone else, either. That alone says what kind of man he was, and he will be definitely missed. 
Tom Diehl 
I'm sure all of the artists appearing at this year's KOOL 103 Caravan Of Stars concert will pay tribute in some way to Billy Joe Saturday night.  (kk)  

I subscribe to Bertie Higgins email and he sent out an email this morning that Billy Joe Royal passed away last night. Met him once.  A very nice man.  RIP 
That seems to be the general consensus from everyone we've ever heard from regarding Billy Joe ... just one of the nicest guys you could ever meet ... very appreciative of his fans and his success ... and the fact that even fifty years later, they'd still come out to see him sing his songs.  Wish I would have had the pleasure to do so as well.  (kk) 

CBS radio news just reported on the death of Billy Joe Royal at the age of 73.  This is sad news.  I had the chance to have him on the phone with me a few times, most recently in 2010.  Attached is a cut from that talk about his biggest hit Down In the Boondocks.  
Phil Nee - WRCO

Funny story ... and one I had not heard before.  Now that he's mentioned it, he really DOES sound a little bit like Gene Pitney on this record!!! (Even the intro is a bit reminiscent of Pitney's "24 Hours From Tulsa".) Of course the one that fooled me was the Los Bravos hit "Black Is Black" ... I swear even fifty years later this STILL sounds like Gene Pitney to me!  Ah, the marvels of possessing such a unique voice!  (kk)   

Here's a New York Times story about Billy Joe, courtesy of FH Reader Tom Cuddy ... sounds like after the Jackson, Tennessee, concert, Royal was scheduled to be heading out with Ronnie McDowell on a national tour!  

Tom also sent us this photo of a PAIR of Billy Joes ... B.J. Thomas with his pal, Billy Joe Royal, from a few years ago.

My best friend Billy Joe Royal, died this morning. He was a sweet and talented man. Never a bad word. One of a kind.
-- BJ Thomas   

Hi Kent,  
The Grim Reaper strikes the veteran music world again.  I was terribly saddened to learn of Billy Joe Royal's death today.  
I can't profess to have known him well, but I was fortunate to have had the chance to meet and speak with him a couple of times when he enjoyed a career renaissance on the country charts in the 1980s.  I'd been a fan of his '60s pop hits, so I was pleased to find that he was a truly nice guy --  quick to credit others with the successes he had had, and not one to play the blame game for the fallow years his career had experienced.  
Billy Joe came up through the Bill Lowery-managed, Atlanta-based stable of artists that included the Classics IV, the Atlanta Rhythm Section and Joe South, whom he cited as one of the most talented musicians and songwriters of all-time.  In his words -- "I owe my career to him for 'Down In The Boondocks.'"  
He was a real music fan, and he clearly enjoyed talking about the artists with whom he crossed paths over the years, far more than about himself.  Billy Joe said that he "still pinched himself" for having shared a concert bill with Sam Cooke on a few occasions, and he urged me to go home and play "You Send Me" back-to-back with Journey's "Lovin', Touchin', Squeezin'," citing his opinion that lead singer Steve Perry copped his style from Cooke.  He was right.  
He was never a superstar, but he was a great and unique singer.  And best of all, he was a really good guy.  I was so pleased to see in a Forgotten Hits post earlier this week that he was on an upcoming, multiple-star touring bill.  And now I'm so sorry that I'll never have a chance to have another one of those terrific conversations with him again.  My condolences to his family, friends and fellow fans.  Regards,  
Scott Paton   

Of course Forgotten Hits has its very OWN Grim Reaper of Rock and Roll ...   

Billy Joe Royal died in his sleep Tuesday (October 6) in his North Carolina home at the age of 73. Born in Valdosta, Georgia, and raised in Marionetta, he made a name for himself first on his uncle's radio program and later on the Georgia Jubilee -- both while in his early teens. While performing in Savannah, he roomed for a while with Joe South, who asked him to record a demo of one of his tunes called "Down In The Boondocks." The demo was successful enough to land Billy Joe a contract with Columbia Records, who released the song as a single, reaching #9 in 1965. Other tunes by Joe followed, including "I Knew You When" (#14 - 1965) and "Hush" (#52 - 1967). He also is remembered for "Cherry Hill Park" (#15 - 1969) and a dozen other charted pop hits, before his star began to fade. Then Billy Joe went on to a successful country career, including "Tell It Like It Is" and "Till I Can't Take It Anymore" -- both of which were #2 on the Country charts.  
-- Ron Smith    

You probably know by now of the passing of Billy Joe Royal yesterday. 
You mentioned that your dad used to buy the Sunday paper on Saturday night to get a jump on the ads. I thought my parents were the only ones that did that. After going out for dinner on Saturday nights, my parents would get a Sunday paper being sold on one of the street corners. They would toss the paper to me in the backseat of the car. I would immediately take out the television guide and go to the tv listings for one week later. I always wanted to know what movie was going to be shown on SHOCK THEATER in one week. 
Larry Neal   

A couple more Billy Joe Royal tracks ... including his cover of a Paul McCartney song from 1970.