Billy Joe Royal was a Georgia-born singer, who found success in the pop, R&B and country genres. Like so many young singers, he was inspired to pursue his career once he saw the success of Elvis, whom he eventually got to know while they were both performing in 1970s-era Las Vegas.
Royal (April 3, 1942-October 6, 2015) began his professional career in Atlanta, appearing at a New Year’s Eve concert that also featured Gladys Knight. He was a friend and colleague of singer-songwriter Joe South, who wrote “Down in the Boondocks” and persuaded Royal to record it.
The success of that hit (it made it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart) earned him a spot on Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars, a package tour of mid-1960s pop stars like Herman’s Hermits, Peter and Gordon and Tom Jones. “Down in the Boondocks” has been covered by Penny DeHaven (1969), Kenny Loggins (1978), Ry Cooder (1980) and U.S. Girls (2012).