Billy Joe Royal Dead at 73
Pop and country star Billy Joe Royal has died. The "Down in the Boondocks" singer enjoyed a country resurgence in the late ‘80s, and toured throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s before dying in his sleep on Tuesday (Oct. 6).
Singer BJ Thomas was among the first to share the news with fans. "My best friend Billy Joe Royal, died this morning," he tweeted. "He was a sweet and talented man. Never a bad word. One of a kind.”
The men of Shenandoah also shared a kind word about Royal, saying their former tourmate was a “sweet guy.” Little information has been released about the 73-year-old’s death, but WSMV-TV in Nashville reports it happened in his North Carolina home. Singer Ronnie McDowell also confirmed the news. The two were touring partners who were set to return to the road in November.
After enjoying pop success in the ‘60s, Royal charted 10 Top 20 hits in the late ‘80s, including “Tell It Like It Is” and “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow.” The Georgia native became a star young — “Down in the Boondocks” was a pop hit in 1965. He grew up playing the Georgia Jubilee Show on Friday nights, often next to stars like Little Jimmy Dickens. His turn to country would come after becoming friends with Kenny Rogers (they lived in the same neighborhood) and later watching Thomas score country hits. He says the song “Burn Like a Rocket” further inspired him, but remembers fighting to get a record deal in Nashville.
Royal’s last album was called His First Gospel Album. It’s a gospel album, inspired by Sam Cooke.
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