Saturday, October 15, 2022

Insights Into ... Billy Joe Royal

The Forgotten Hits Billy Joe Royal lovefest continues today with this excellent piece provided by Jeff March and Marti Smiley Childs ...

It comes from their book "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone, Volume 3," available for purchase via the link provided below.  (kk)  

Insights into … Billy Joe Royal

[9 Billboard Hot 100 singles, 1965–78; plus 14 country music charted singles]

Billy Joe Royal in an outtake from the 1965 photo session 

for the cover of his Down in the Boondocks album 

(photo courtesy of Savannah Royal)

Picture the 1955-era town square in the original Back to the Future movie, with a butcher shop, a bakery, a malt shop, a shoe store, a dress shop, a hardware store, and other mom-and-pop shops surrounding the central green. That was Billy Joe Royal’s memory of Marietta, Georgia, where in the ’50s he spent much of his childhood and adolescence. “We had two movie theaters on the square, and when the movie let out, we all hung out at the drugstore,” Billy Joe recalled. Marietta Square also had a bandstand and a gazebo. He and his family had moved from his birthplace, Valdosta, Georgia, to Marietta in 1952 when he was 10 years old.

Billy Joe Royal – that was his true birth name – was the oldest among his three other siblings – his brother, Jack, two years younger, and two sisters, Marilyn and Christine. Their parents, Clarence and Mary, worked hard to scrape together a living for the family. They picked cotton, then moved to a mill village and worked at the cotton mill, and Billy Joe’s dad supplemented that with work as a construction laborer whenever he could. The Royal family lived the life of poverty that Billy Joe described with such feeling in his 1965 breakout hit, “Down in the Boondocks.”

Billy Joe, who as an adolescent enjoyed country, pop, and gospel music, had planned to become a lap steel guitar player. But after gaining experience singing with local bands, he passed a singing audition at age 14 to appear on the Georgia Jubilee, a barn-dance program that was broadcast on Atlanta-area radio. Also chosen that day was country music singer Freddy Weller, and fellow performers that Billy Joe met there included Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, Tommy Roe and – most importantly for him – Joe South (birth name: Joseph Souter). Royal and South connected with Atlanta recording studio owner and music publisher Bill Lowery, for whom Billy Joe began recording demos in 1961. Lowery built his northeastern Atlanta studio in the abandoned Brookhaven School building that he had purchased. The property included an old, empty septic tank – which, as it turned out, had remarkable acoustic properties. With audio fed into the drained, dry tank, it served as a fine echo chamber.

Various labels released Billy Joe Royal singles but success eluded him until 1965, when Lowery persuaded Columbia Records to release Billy Joe’s recording of Joe South’s composition “Down in the Boondocks.” That sent him into the top 10, and he followed it with his interpretation of two other Joe South songs: “I Knew You When” and “I’ve Got To Be Somebody.”

Billy Joe’s releases during the following couple of years sputtered, but lightning struck again at the end of the decade. After Joe South signed with Capitol Records as a recording artist in late 1967, Columbia paired Billy Joe with arranger Emory Gordy Jr. and producer Buddy Buie, architect of the Atlanta Rhythm Section (ARS) and a longtime associate of Bill Lowery’s. ARS drummer Robert Nix and Billy Gilmore had written a song inspired by a place in New Jersey. Billy Joe recorded the song, about a girl who by daytime had been “a teaser” and at nighttime “a pleaser” – before marrying and moving away from Cherry Hill, New Jersey – a song in step with that “free love” era. In the autumn of 1969, Billy Joe’s recording of “Cherry Hill Park” cracked the top 40 and ultimately landed at No. 15, remaining on the chart for 15 weeks.

Billy Joe’s pop music career entered another slump in the 1970s, and for a dozen years he worked primarily as a lounge entertainer in Nevada casino cabarets. The shift of his friend Kenny Rogers from pop to country inspired Billy Joe to reach back to his own country roots. By 1985, Billy Joe re-emerged as a persistent hit-making country music artist on the strength of a top-10 single, “Burned Like a Rocket.” He continued making country music chart appearances into the early 1990s. By then, he had been sought as a performer on oldies shows. In the autumn of 2015 he was on tour. Four days before one of his scheduled performances, fans were stunned to learn that he had died unexpectedly in his sleep on October 6, 2015. He was 73 years old.

Billy Joe Royal left a rich musical legacy for pop and country music fans, recognized by his 1988 induction into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Billy Joe Royal recorded from 1985 to 1992 

for the Atlantic America country music label, 

which issued this publicity photo of him


Billy Joe’s first steel guitar, which he had seen in a store window

“I didn’t want to ask my folks for it because I knew it cost too much, but that was what I really, really wanted. We were all as poor as we could be. I was 12 years old, and when I came downstairs at Christmas, my parents said, ‘There’s something hidden behind the tree.’ They knew how much I wanted a lap steel guitar, and they had bought one for me with a little amplifier. It only cost $36, but it was a fortune for my parents. I’ll never forget that feeling. I went crazy.”

The septic tank echo chamber at Bill Lowery’s recording studio

“The septic tank echo chamber worked fine, except for when it rained. Also, a railroad line ran right by the studio, and every time a train would come through we would have to stop recording.”

Billy Joe’s admiration of Joe South

“Many people don’t realize that besides being, to me, the greatest writer that ever lived, Joe South was one of the greatest guitar players. Joe South was truly a genius. That’s him playing guitar on Aretha Franklin’s ‘Chain Of Fools’ record. He played with Simon and Garfunkel, and he played with Bob Dylan too.”


The narrative and quotations in this article are excerpted from the book Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? — Volume 3, by Marti Smiley Childs and Jeff March. This material is copyrighted © 2016 by EditPros LLC and may not be reproduced or redistributed without written permission.  Book available for purchase here:

Billy Joe Royal also recorded the Joe South songs "Hush" (#52, 1967, and a hit all over again ... albeit in a completely different arrangement ... the following year for heavy metal group Deep Purple) and "Yo Yo" (#117, 1966), which would go on to become a HUGE pop hit (#3) for The Osmonds in 1971.  South also penned five other chart hits for Billy Joe, giving him nine charters in all.  Royal also charted with hits written by Chip Taylor and Billy Vera, Paul McCartney, Wayne Carson Thompson and Mac Davis ... as well as his buddy Freddy Weller.

He is one of those artists that I never got the chance to see.  (I don't think he played Chicago much.)  We talked thru Forgotten Hits a couple of times and he seemed to be a genuinely nice man ... VERY appreciative of his fans and the success the bestowed upon him.  It was a sad day when Billy Joe Royal died in 2015.  (kk)

Billy Joe Royal became a successful country artist nearly overnight once he took the plunge in 1985.  (Honestly, it seemed like such a natural step, given Billy Joe's roots.  And country music fans are a very loyal audience.)

Fifteen country hits followed, including six Top Ten's.  Two of those climbed as high as #2:  "Tell It Like It Is" (1989) and "Till I Can't Take It Anymore" (1990)

Here's my favorite Billy Joe Royal country tune ...

"I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow," #5, 1988


The narrative and quotations in this article are excerpted from the book Where Have All the Pop Stars Gone? — Volume 3, by Marti Smiley Childs and Jeff March. This material is copyrighted © 2016 by EditPros LLC and may not be reproduced or redistributed without written permission.

Friday, October 14, 2022


We've got a Billy Joe Royal Double Feature for you this weekend ...

First WRCO Disc Jockey Phil Nee shares an interview that he did with Billy Joe back in 2010 ...

And then tomorrow, Jeff March and Marti Smiley Childs will share excerpts from the profile and interview that THEY did in their excellent series of "Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone" books!

Billy Joe Royal's 1965 hit 'Down In the Boondocks'  is one of the all time most requested songs on my Saturday night program.  Joe South was an
amazing writer and producer.  
From a 2010 WRCO interview we learn that the two were trying to make the song sound like another artist. 
I had the chance to see Billy Joe Royal as the opening act for B.J. Thomas in Madison, Wisconsin in the early 2000's.  It was an outstanding show.  
He made sure to sing one of my favorites, 1969's Cherry Hill Park.  
He talked about that record with me back in 2010 and some of the other almost hits that he recorded.
Man, what an incredible show that would have been to see!!! 
As you probably already know, B.J. Thomas BECAME "B.J. Thomas" because Billy Joe Royal was already having hits under his own name.  (Thomas' name was ALSO Billy Joe!!!  So to avoid confusion, they agreed to market him as B.J. Thomas ... which seemed to work out pretty well in the long run.) 
You can Jeff and Marti's profile of B.J. Thomas in our August 15th post ...
And be sure to check out their Billy Joe Royal profile tomorrow ...
Right here in Forgotten Hits!!! 

Be sure to listen to Phil Nee's THOSE WERE THE DAYS radio program tomorrow night on WRCO ...

WRCO AM FM Radio Richland Center Wisconsin

Just click on the 100.9 headphones and start streaming!

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Thursday This And That

Today’s the day that Jefferson Airplane receive their Star on The Hollywood Walk Of Fame.  Accepting the star on behalf of the band will be Grace Slick, Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen.  John Densmore of The Doors will be a guest speaker. 

The ceremony kicks off at 11:30 am Pacific Time and will be streamed live exclusively at  

More info here:  

Jefferson Airplane are the 2737th star to be so honored.  They follow Mama Cass Elliot, who we told you about last week, who earned star number 2735 on October 3rd  

(So who fell in between these rock legends with Star #2736???  Wouldja believe American Idol #1 Kelly Clarkson?!?!?  Sorry … didn’t mean to cheapen the moment!)  kk


Love those KPOI charts.  LOTS of great obscure stuff always.  That Ranji 45 I love.  It was top 10 in Omaha on KOIL, too!

Clark Besch

Hey Kent -
Thanks for posting the KPOI survey from 1972. That chart introduced me to FIVE new records I've never heard before, at least two of which will get airplay on my Lost And Found Oldies Show. 
A question for you and your readers ...
What do you consider to be the LEAST satisfying period for pop music of the Forgotten Hits era through 1989?  
Listening to AT40 on Sirius this weekend and hearing Jerry Wallace's "If You Leave Me Tonight, I'll Cry" and "Geronimo's Cadillac" by Michael Murphey back-to-back caused me to flip over to the 80s channel, where their countdown featured October, 1985. After tuning in for a while, I think THAT'S the period that gets MY vote. I'd love to know what y'all think and I'll read the comments on my next LAFOS.  

Here's your chance to sound off, readers ... drop Sam a line and let him know what you think ... and then be sure to listen to LAFOS (his Lost And Found Oldies Show) to hear your comments read on the air.

(For me, 1972 was the last great year for Top 40 Radio.  When we picked our 40 favorites a few weeks ago for Phil Nee's Those Were The Days program, I had a hard time narrowing my list down from over 100.  But 1973 / 1974 were two of the most BORING years musically in my opinion ... too much schmaltz.  There was a bit of a rebound in 1975 ... and then Disco hit.  My Top 40 Era really runs from about 1955 - 1956 to around 1980 (and maybe 1985) ... but we have expanded our horizons over the years of doing Forgotten Hits.  Think about it ... even a song from 1985 is already 37 years old now!!!  (kk)



You mentioned the tune "Mah-Na-Mah-Na" by Piero Umiliano in today's FH.

For the week of August 14, 1969, it made its initial appearance on our weekly top 40 survey as a HIT BOUND RECORD. It eventually peaked at #12 for the week of September 4 as you can see.

Now when it made its initial appearance, the word SOUNDTRACK was listed under ARTIST. However, from that point on, the artist was designated as DALE & EFFIE. These were two characters created by mid-day DJ Don Wallace. The listening audience really didn't know better.

Larry Neal


Excellent composition on Art LaBoe this morning. 


An amazing individual.  And what a life.
His last show just four nights ago.  At 97?!
Damned near "died with his headphones on . . ."
Chuck Buell

More on Art Laboe from Harvey Kubernik ... 

You don’t replace people like Art Laboe.  His reach was monumental. He was a disc jockey, program director, concert promoter, label owner and more.


From an article written by Neil Genzlinger and Annabelle Williams:


Art Laboe, D.J. Who Popularized ‘Oldies but Goodies,’ Dies at 97


A familiar voice on the California airwaves for almost 80 years, he saw the appeal of old rock ’n’ roll records practically before they were old.

Art Laboe, the disc jockey who as a mainstay of the West Coast airwaves for decades bridged racial divides through his music selections and live shows, reached listeners in a new way by allowing on-air dedications and helped make the phrase “oldies but goodies” ubiquitous, died on Friday at his home in Palm Springs, Calif. He was 97.

An announcement on his Facebook page said the cause was pneumonia.


Mr. Laboe worked in radio for almost 80 years. In 1973, The San Francisco Examiner was already calling him the “dean of Los Angeles rock ’n’ roll broadcasting,” and he would be on the air for almost a half-century more after that.


He started in the business as a teenager during World War II, working at a San Francisco station, KSAN, before gravitating to KPMO in Pomona and KCMJ in Palm Springs. The idea of a disc jockey with a distinctive personality had not yet become the norm in radio — at KCMJ, a CBS affiliate, he was mostly an announcer doing station identifications and such between radio soap operas — but for an hour late at night he was allowed to play music.


He featured big bands, crooners and other sounds of the day. But as tastes changed, his selections changed, and sometimes he was at the front edge of the evolution. In 1954, by then working in Los Angeles, Mr. Laboe “was largely responsible for making the Chords’ ‘Sh-Boom’ (sometimes cited as the first rock ’n’ roll record) an L.A. No. 1,” Harvey Kubernik wrote in his book “Turn Up the Radio! Rock, Pop and Roll in Los Angeles, 1956-1972.”


He also saw the appeal of “oldies” practically before they were old. Around 1949 he had started working at KRKD in Los Angeles, selling advertising by day and playing music in the wee hours. He thought an all-night restaurant, Scrivener’s Drive-In, might be interested in advertising on his all-night show, so he paid a visit and sold the owner, Paul Scrivener, some spots. A few months later, Mr. Scrivener made a suggestion.


“‘You know, that show’s pretty good,’” Mr. Laboe, in a 2016 interview with The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, recalled Mr. Scrivener saying. “‘Why couldn’t you do that show from my drive-in?’ So I did.’”


Mr. Laboe issued the first volume of his “Oldies but Goodies” series of compilation albums in 1959. It stayed on the Billboard chart for more than three years, and many more volumes followed.


He would broadcast from the restaurant (he moved to KLXA and then KPOP in this period), stopping by cars and asking the occupants to pick a song from a list.


“At the bottom of the list,” The San Francisco Examiner wrote in 1973, “were a half a dozen ‘oldies’ titles — songs at that time no more than three years old — and when this portion of the list began to show the heaviest action, Laboe wondered if there might be something to this.”

And, speaking of Oldies But Goodies, here's a quick smile from Chuck Buell:


Anita Kerr, who backed up some great songs of the 60's, won Grammys and was the creator of the 1960 great WLS jingles that spread across the country and are possibly the most memorable in jingle history, has passed away.  Rest in peace, Anita.  Your jingles are in my head decade after decade.
IF you listened to WLS from 1960 thru 1967, you likely heard MANY of these classic short but sweet mini-tunes:
More on Anita Kerr (and The Anita Kerr Singers) here ...

I know! I know!


I wrote reviews for both Gary Puckett and Herman's Hermits this spring and summer, BUT I just HAD to go to Tarrytown, NY, to see them again before they depart for areas out-of-reach. Gary is now in the UK at the start of his tour there and HHSPN won't be back in New England for at least six months! So, everyone on this page totally understands the necessity of my jaunt, and the resulting review.


The concert, being on a Sunday, meant a late-night drive home in order to be at school on Monday. Then, a former co-worker asked me for potential substitute opportunities and WHALLA! I can return home on Monday morning and take that day off. I just love when a plan works without me having to plan it.


Fall is the perfect time of year to visit the historic Tarrytown Music Hall and relive The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The leaves are not to be as beautiful as other years, but the weather is tremendous, with outside seating continuing at the sidewalk cafes. Joe Mirrione plays emcee as the "Stars of the Sixties" series is one of his creations. He takes surveys at all his Praia Entertainment concerts, asking for the audience to tell him who they want to see in his shows. If tonight's sold-out concert is an indication, then the idea works.


Gary Puckett's opening is an on-screen collage of TV appearances presenting snippets of his Union Gap hits. The audience enthusiastically remembers and begin their applause as the current Union Gap is silhouetted on-stage, at the ready. Gary appears with the one-line intro of 'Young Girl' and continues into 'Over You' ... with a little help from his friends in the audience. We all, at least, know the two words OVER YOU. We are transported back in time, once again, to the songs that brought us together then, and still do now. Tonight, Gary has the time allotted to sing much of his first album. This album was purposely a collection of popular songs of the day, so that The Union Gap would have a good chance at a first album hit, the idea being that adding others' songs to their hits would increase sales. It worked, and it is fun to hear Gary's interpretation of songs by Neil Diamond, Sonny and Cher and Glen Campbell. 


Let me get serious for a moment, with a warning about one of Gary's recordings. A golden retriever dog breeder was having no success with the breeding of two of his dogs. They tried something outlandish and played a 45 record for this pair steadily for two days. Yes, our parents were also known to have been subjected to this in our own households. The result with the golden retrievers was that they successfully reproduced a fine litter of pups. So, PLEASE, be cautious when playing 'This Girl Is A Woman Now'.  Yes, that is as serious as I am going to get here.


Gary gave a great performance tonight, and the audience loved him. Jamie Hilboldt, Woody Lingle and Mike Candito are wonderful musicians and back-ups as The Union Gap. Their set-list for tonight:


Over You

Lady Willpower

Kentucky Woman

You Better Sit Down Kids

By the Time I get to Phoenix

This Girl is a Woman Now


Let's Give Adam and Eve Another Chance (requested from the audience)


Young Girl


As Gary held onto ending notes for impressive periods of time, the audience jumped (some literally) at the chance to applaud him. Gary signed autographs during intermission and the line was longer than the length of time between acts.


When comparing jewels, you should compare diamonds to other diamonds, rubies to other rubies, etc. In music, the jewels are each different, unique and priceless. So, when 'Vindaloo' signals the opening of HHSPN, we do not expect a repeat of the first act of jewels. None-the-less, we have a jewel presentation called ACT TWO! NOT second act, same as the first. Rephrasing your lines here, Peter. 


The songs were ones that were expected, and yet ... there was a freshness in the presentations. Maybe it was security in knowing you have free reign of your audience. This is what I mean:  There was only one security guard for the stage. Peter told the audience that was because "There's no one IN this audience who COULD rush the stage." OK! That would certainly put my mind at ease, performing. However, I am thinking: "Bet I still could!" And if the rest of the audience is seat-bound, I wouldn't even have to hurry. I can see myself prancing leisurely down the aisle. The Banned seem to feel this security as well. Vance and Billy wiggle their arses during 'Daydream Believer' and feel free to still kick it up during 'Just A Little Bit Better'. Now I know that none of these antics are new, BUT now that they only need a one-man security team, they are free to taunt us with abandon. 


The musicianship has gotten even better. Billy's intro to 'Jezebel' is arguably outstanding. Vance's solo playing on 'Leanin' on a Lamppost,' along with partnering up with Rich on 'Listen People' and Billy on 'Mrs. Brown,' exhibits an increase in their ability to make more of these same songs than they did before the shut-down. 


I have received and viewed many reactions to this concert as being "the one to beat". Yes, indeedy! I encourage every performer on stage tonight to try and achieve that AND I certainly hope I am in the audience when they do! Peter's charm, ability to hold the audience in his hand and security of his talent raised the bar higher. Their set list:


Into Something Good

Wonderful World

Love Potion Number 9


A Must to Avoid

Ring of Fire

Daydream Believer

All My Loving

Sea Cruise

Just a Little Bit Better


Listen People

Ferry Across NJ

Doo Wah Diddy


Glad All Over (cut short to jump into)

Leanin' on a Lamppost

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Can't You Hear My Heartbeat

Mrs. Brown

Henry VIII

There's a Kind of Hush


Peter also signed autographs after the show, and although I am surprised it happened, I am thrilled to say AUTOGRAPH LINES ARE BACK! Safe travels, Gary, and happy safe ventures to HHSPN.


Shelley J Sweet-Tufano

the correspondent who at last got to travel out of state

From Tom Cuddy …

Graham Nash on longevity, 'new' album with David Crosby and smoking pot at 80


I can’t imagine too many people out there ever figured that the heavy metal band AC/DC would someday be teaching kids their ABC’s … but apparently it’s true!!!


Latest songs on the block?  Joey Ramone’s catalog, which just went for ten million.

Primary Wave (who recently purchased the rights to music created by Stevie Nicks, Alice Cooper and Def Leppard) picked up the publishing rights.  (This would seem to be a rather limited audience to me for this one … how often do you hear a song by The Ramones these days???  Then again, maybe that’s exactly what they’re trying to change!)  kk

We’ve got some royally good stuff coming up in Forgotten Hits, kicking off with a back-to-back salute to Billy Joe Royal beginning tomorrow with a FRIDAY edition of Phil Nee’s “Those Were The Days” interviews with Billy, followed up by our monthly “Insight Into” feature from Jeff March and Marti Smiley-Childs “Where Have All The Pop Stars Gone” that spotlights Billy as well.


On Sunday, it’ll be this month’s SWEET 16 feature, followed up on Monday with our weekly Coast-To-Coast 1972 Survey Sweep, this time with a stop in Tennessee.


After that, Chuck Buell gives us a little “Something” special, as well as another one of his Music History lessons.