Billy Joe Royal, Singer of “Down in the Boondocks,” Dead at 73

Country Hits Included “Tell It Like It Is,” “Til I Can’t Take It Anymore”

Pop and country singer Billy Joe Royal died at his home in North Carolina Tuesday (Oct. 6). He was 73.

Although his recording career had peaked in the late 1980s, Royal continued to tour. According to Pollstar, the live concert publication, he was next scheduled to appear Dec. 1 with Ronnie McDowell at a club in Kansas City, Missouri.

On his Facebook page, McDowell said of Royal, “He was one of the sweetest, kindest, most laidback people I have ever known. I never heard him raise his voice as he was always respectful and very professional.”

Born April 3, 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia, Royal headed his own band, the Corvettes, while still in high school. He first recorded for the Fairlane label in 1961.

But it was not until 1965 that he debuted the song — Joe South’s “Down in the Boondocks” — that would launch his career. “Boondocks” went to No. 9 on Billboard’s pop charts and became his signature tune.

Royal never again matched that chart eminence as a pop act, but he did score two more Top 15 hits in that genre — “I Knew You When,” also in 1965, and “Cherry Hill Park” in 1969. All his pop successes were on Columbia Records.

In the mid-1980s, Royal signed to Atlantic America as a country artist. His first single, “Burned Like a Rocket,” reached No. 10 in 1985.

Over the next four years, his highest-scoring singles were “I Miss You Already” (No. 14), “Old Bridges Burn Slow” (No. 11), “I’ll Pin a Note on Your Pillow” (No. 5), “Out of Sight and On My Mind” (No. 10), “Tell It Like It Is” (No. 2), “Love Has No Right” (No. 4) and “Til I Can’t Take It Anymore” (No. 2).

“I’m Okay (And Getting Better),” his last country record to chart, was released in 1992.

Funeral arrangements are pending.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.