Billy Joe Royal: "Down in the Boondocks" Singer Dies at 73

Kimberly RipleyLife

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Billy Joe Royal, the singer best known for his 1965 hit son "Down in the Boondocks," died at his home in Morehead, North Carolina on Tuesday at the age of 73. No cause of death has been announced, according to his publicist.

Still performing on a regular basis, Billy Joe Royal sang at his most recent concert on September 24th, and had a full tour scheduled well into the fall.

"Down in the Boondocks" told the tale of a boy from the wrong side of the tracks, who fell in love with a rich girl. It hit number nine on the pop charts in 1965.

“I guess people related to poor people,” Royal said during an interview in 1990. “Once in a while I hear it on the radio, and it still stands up. The song meant everything to my career. I was making about $125 a week before that.”

Billy Joe Royal's second biggest hit came in 1969. Called "Cherry Hill Park," it also made the top 20.

Born in Valdosta, Georgia in 1942, Royal grew up in Marietta, outside of Atlanta. He started singing as a child in elementary school, then learned to play steel guitar. It wasn't long before he joined his uncle's country and western band.

Inspired by Elvis Presley, Billy Joe Royal hoped he could make it big, too.

“When he made it so big, all us Southern boys thought maybe we had a shot, too,” he said.

Following his success with "Down in the Boondocks," Billy Joe Royal was invited by Dick Clark to join his Dick Clark Caravan of Stars. The tour also featured The Turtles, the Shirelles, Peter and Gordon, and Tom Jones.

In recent years Billy Joe Royal toured with B.J. Thomas of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head" fame.

The music world is no doubt saddened to learn of Billy Joe Royal's passing, and is no doubt awaiting word of his cause of death, as well as plans for laying him to rest.

Kimberly Ripley
Kimberly Ripley is a freelance writer and published author from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A wife, mom of five and 'Nana' to Lilly and Aiden, she loves cooking for her big family and watching HGTV in her spare time. Kim is guilty of starting way more home design projects than she can finish. Visit her at Twitter and Facebook.