Born on April 3, 1942, in Valdosta, GA. Addresses: Booking--The Bobby Roberts Company, Inc., P.O. Box 1547, Goodlettsville, TN 37070-1547, phone: (615) 859-8899, fax: (615) 859-2200.

Rising from the unpretentious background of a Georgia schoolboy, Billy Joe Royal was rubbing elbows with the most popular country and rhythm-and-blues performers of the 1950s by the time he had graduated from high school. He earned stardom in his own right in the 1960s after the release of a top ten hit single, "Down in the Boondocks." Despite periods of low visibility, Royal's popularity endured through the next three decades and into the new millennium. Clear and direct in his vocal delivery, Royal performed on guitar, piano, and drums, and also made his mark as a published composer.

Royal was born on April 3, 1942 (or 1945, according to some sources) in Valdosta, Georgia. He was the son of a self-employed truck driver. The family moved to Marietta when Royal was seven years of age, and to Atlanta three years later. He delivered newspapers as a schoolboy, but by age 11 he was in pursuit of a show-business career, beginning with regular singing appearances on his uncle's radio show. He then learned to play the steel guitar. At age 14 Royal joined a musical revue called Georgia Jubilee. The program featured prominent guest artists and brought Royal into professional contact with classic country music artists such as Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, and various members of the Grand Ole Opry radio barn dance cast. Royal also formed his own band, Billy Joe and the Corvettes, during high school, and by age 16 he was performing locally on a regular basis.

After graduation Royal moved to Savannah, where for two years he made regular appearances at the city's popular soul and rhythm-and-blues clubs. During this period Royal shared living quarters for a time with songwriter Joe South, and the two developed a personal friendship. Working five-hour stints on stage and maintaining six-day workweeks, Royal likewise established professional associations with leading R&B artists--the Isley Brothers and Sam Cooke among others.

Beginning in 1962 Royal taped an assortment of low-budget demos and singles, and sent them to Motown and other major labels. When these early demos failed to attract attention, he moved to Cincinnati in an ongoing quest for a recording contract. There he made a number of cover recordings and made contact again with South. It was South, in fact, who wrote "Down in the Boondocks," the recording that made Royal a star. South, as it happened, had hoped to pitch the song to Gene Pitney (who was already a popular star) and requested that Royal record a demo of the tune. The original track by Royal was recorded in Atlanta in 1962, but in a twist of fate the demo attracted the attention not of Pitney, but rather of Bill Lowery, a well-connected music producer and publisher. Lowery then assisted Royal in securing a six-year contract with Columbia Records. Once again, it was South who originally had introduced Royal to Lowery.

In 1965 Royal recorded "Boondocks" once again at the Columbia recording studio, where a converted septic tank was used to create the song's echo-chamber sound effects. "Down in the Boondocks" entered the American top 40 chart on July 3, 1965, and thereafter made headway into the top ten, peaking at number nine. A follow-up single in September, called "I Knew You When," broke into the top 20. Royal returned with "I've Got to Be Somebody" in December. In May of the next year he released "Heart's Desire," followed by "Campfire Girls" in September. Thanks to his newfound prominence, Royal joined Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars, a three-month tour of one-night stands that featured headliners such as the Shirelles, Neil Diamond, and Tom Jones.

Other hits followed for Royal, including "Hush" in September 1967 and "Cherry Hill Park" in 1969. Royal diversified into acting in films, television, and commercials, and he narrated the Frank Willard film Mondo Daytona in 1968. Royal made stage appearances in Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, and elsewhere with a personal backup band, called the Blue Royals. A final Columbia release, "Tulsa," appeared in February of 1971 and made the Hot 100 chart, marking the end of Royal's initial high-profile recording career.

In 1973 Royal wrote the score for A Name for Evil, a film starring Robert Culp and Samantha Eggar, and in 1974 he appeared with Richie Havens in Patrick McGoohan's Catch My Soul, an adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello. During the late 1970s Royal recorded for Private Stock and scored some minor hits, including a Top 100 cover of the Drifters' hit "Under the Boardwalk" in 1978. He released more than a dozen miscellaneous recordings in the early 1980s.

In 1985 Royal was seen on television's Country Radio Seminar, on a program called Old Faces. Likewise, clips of his early performances from the 1960s and 1970s were edited into a video documentary, called Rock and Roll Call. Unwilling to rest on his laurels, however, Royal during the early 1980s had scoured Nashville for a new hit song to record. After hearing a tune by songwriter Gary Burr called "Burned Like a Rocket," Royal recorded it for Lowery's Southern Track label in 1984. Alert producers at Atlantic Records recognized this track as a likely chart hit and signed Royal to a contract, reissuing the song on the Atlantic America label. As anticipated, the major-label release of "Rocket" became a top ten country hit for Royal in 1986--and that year he made an appearance on another Country Radio Seminar program, New Faces. A subsequent top ten hit, "I'll Pin a Note on Your Pillow," appeared in 1987.

With his career recharged and ignited by "Rocket," Royal enjoyed a succession of popular singles such as "Miss You Already," "Old Bridges Burn Slow," "Out of Sight and Out of Mind," and "Love Has No Right." Among these hits of his resurrected career, Royal's "On My Mind" was one of the most requested country songs of the times. His 1987 album Looking Ahead peaked at number 21 and lingered on the country album charts for a year. A subsequent album, The Royal Treatment, featured a duet with Donna Fargo called "Members Only" and hit the top 40 as well. The album Tell It Like It Is entered the top 15 in 1989, and remained there for more than one year. The album's staying power was attributed in part to the title song, which rose to the number two position on the singles charts.

Royal's second self-titled album, released in 1992, featured assorted covers, including those of Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry" and Willie Nelson's "Funny How Time Slips Away." Royal released a video, Billy Joe Royal, that year, and he remained active; the year 1998 saw the release of a new album, Stay Close to Home, on the Intersound label. In the early 2000s Royal went on tour and subsequently joined another startup label, Park South Records. In 2001 he released an independent album, Now and Then, Then and Now. Additionally, a total of 12 compilation albums surveying Billy Joe Royal's long and varied career were released between 1989 and 2002.

by G. Cooksey

Billy Joe Royal's Career

Began singing on Atlanta radio, age 11; joined Georgia Jubilee (musical revue), age 14; performed locally with his band, Billy Joe and the Corvettes, age 16; regular appearances at Savannah clubs, age 18-20; began taping demos and singles, including "Down in the Boondocks," 1962; signed with Columbia Records, 1962; re-recorded "Down in the Boondocks" for Columbia, hit the top 40 and joined Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars, 1965; diversified into acting, 1968; final Columbia release, "Tulsa," 1971; wrote the score for A Name for Evil, 1973; appeared in Catch My Soul, 1974; recorded for Private Stock, late 1970s; miscellaneous recordings, early 1980s; appearances on Country Radio Seminar, 1985-86; career revival with "Burned Like a Rocket," on Southern Track, 1984; signed with Atlantic Records, 1984; recorded hit albums and singles, 1990s; debut video, Billy Joe Royal, 1992; signed with Park South Records, and toured, early 2000s; independent album, Now and Then, Then and Now, 2001.

Famous Works

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 12 years ago

I am reading your comments to Billy Joe. He is looking over my shoulder. He Loves his fans and appreciates every comment. Thank All of you very much. Billy Joe Royal

almost 12 years ago

Billy Joe, This is Mac Jones's isiter-inlwa, we have been fans forever !! Sure loved the days when you would perform at the Belmont Moose Lodge, what did you do with all those dimes ???? We love you !!! Lillian, Edna & Mac

almost 12 years ago

I saw BJR this week in Gulf Shores, Al. along with BJ Thomas. They were both fantastic. BJR was a little under the weather but he could still hit those high notes and his humor was remarkable. He has a new song out called "A Hard Rock to Roll" really good.

over 12 years ago

tell bj to get ahold of me at just tellem del needs to talk to him . he knows who i am lol. not important just want to tellem im still alive.

over 13 years ago

Sat with Billy Joes aunt when I was 10.Left and I did a lot of films and books.Work with Carson,Wayne,Clark,Grammy Adwards,etc.So many famous people cause Billy Joes aunt and Billy was so GREAT!

almost 14 years ago

I wacthed billy joel perform friday may 20th in La. he gave a number one performance in my book. He is a great singer! If you really listen to his songs they tell storys of real life.

almost 14 years ago

I came across Billy Joe by accident when i was on the net searching for a song by another artist, this was 3years ago, i became a fan straight away, i absolutely love his voice and adore all his songs, my favourite 'Boardwalk Angel' it's brilliant, i have tried to get more info on this song ei- who wrote it? so if anyone can pass on info it will be very much appreciated. I have introduced Billy Joe's songs to loads of people, i work weekend's in pubs and clubs doing Karaoke Disco and i always play his song and reaction i get is fab, people come up and ask me about 'that song and that singer' it never fails. It's a pity that i'll never get to him 'live' as i live in the U.K. and i don't think Billy Joe will ever come to the U.K but that wont change how i feel about him, HE'S FAB!!!!

about 14 years ago

I got hooked on Billy Joe Royal music before he made it. He was performing regularly in my hometown (Savannah) at the Bamboo Ranch and had a regional hit titled "Perhaps" still my favorite, backed by "Dark Glasses" on the Fairlane label. I still have the much worn 45 RPM record. This was early 1960. How many of you knew him back then? His high pitched voice has stayed with him and he just gets better with time. I would like to download Perhaps and Dark Glasses if anyone ever finds a source, please let me know.

about 14 years ago

I saw Billy Joe about a year and a half ago in Newberry, SC. He is absolutely fantastic. He was sick that night but you would not have known it by his performance. I wish he would come back to the Newberry Opera House, I call them all of the time to see if he has booked with them yet. He has still got it going on for sure.

over 14 years ago

saw him last nite in Elba, AL along with BJ Thomas. Great concert, these guys just get better. Saw him 10 years ago and he's still a great singer

over 14 years ago

Billy Joe was at Walhalla,SC this past Sat. night ( 10/10/09) My husband and I went. It was Great! Alomo opened and played for him. They are a Great band. We have been to alot of his concerts from Pigeon Forge,Tenn- Newberry,SC,- Anderson,SC- Walhalla,SC- Seneca,SC. I have photos made with him.

over 14 years ago

When I was 11 or 12 we moved to cold michigan from albany GA and I Knew YouWhen and Down in the Boondocks were my refuge Thank You Bily Joe Shelly

over 14 years ago

Saw Billy Joe at Clifton, TN where he performed at the Horseshoe Riverbend Festival. He was great! We could listen to him all night long. It ended to soon.

over 14 years ago

i"m a Billy Joe Royal fan since the 1960"s i love his singing his uncle Jack played in my brother:s band go Billy. can;t wait till you come back to jacksonville fl. thanks.

over 14 years ago

I have loved Billy Joe Royal since I was 13 years old and listening to WLS on my transiter radio every day and night and still today when Down in the Boondocks comes on the oldie-goldie radio station I turn the volume up loud and sing all the words; have for years! I saw him when he came to Sullivan Indiana back in the 90's. Didn't get up close to him, but, wish he would have signed autographs that night...

almost 15 years ago

I love Billy Joe Royal. My favorite is 'pin a note on your pillow'. Can anyone tell me where i can download the audio and maybe see the video?

almost 15 years ago

i knew billy joe in the old big hugh baby hoparoony days i had a mad crush on him at the time i loved his music and his family i have followed his career and own all of his music which i play often i knew him to be a talented and kind person he was very patient with silly little crushes

almost 15 years ago

I loved Billy Joe's music back in the 60's, but when "Burned Like A Rocket" came out in 1985 it became my all-time favorite song and still is. I first met Billy Joe at the TV show "Nashville Now" in 1986. About a year later I booked him to do a concert at the school where I was assistant principal. From that point on, Billy and I became very good friends and still are to this day. Not only is he a great singer but a wonderful person as well. I have actually got to sing background vocals with him several times. It has been like a dream come true for me to get to sing with my favorite singer while he sings my favorite song. To me, he is simply the best......and I know there are many others who feel the same. I have seen Billy 54 times.

about 15 years ago

I just saw Billy Joe Royal in a Legends And Memories concert 2 days ago.I have seen him several times and he is always so nice and does a really good show.I could listen to his cd's all the time and never get tired of them.He is truly a legend.

about 15 years ago

My wife an I met Billy Joe in Montgomery,Al. in 1984 0r 85 through a disk jocky friend of mine "Rick Ingram" who was working at the time for W.L.W.I.Radio in Montgomery.My wife was crazy about Billy Joe and I loved his music more than anything. We went down to Panama City,Fl. to see him and drove out to Houston to see him at Gilly's. He was always so nice and spent time talking with us and my wife had the chance to dance with him one night in Montgomery. We are now living in San Antonio,Texas and still play his music about every day.Sure hope that one day soon we will have a chance to see Billy Joe again.

about 15 years ago

Billy Joe has always been my favorite, I can put his cd's in the player and be content for hours & sing along !! I've always attended his concerts in the Houston area & where he has performed in the surrounding area too. He is still number one in my book !!!!

about 16 years ago

I just saw Billy Joe Royal in a show with B. J. Thomas at the Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga, Tn. He is still a great entertainer and singer. I so enjoy his music and voice.

over 16 years ago

I never saw billy joe perform but I wish I would have. When I ride around in my car I listen to the music I like the most. I make my own CD's and I don't think there's any that I don't have "pin a note on your pillow". I have my favorite music like everyone else and, that song is one of my all tome favorites. That is along with Bad Moon Risin by CCR. If you know Billy Joe personally tell him he has a fan forever. My wife thinks he's cool to. Thanks