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Billy Joe Royal Dies at 73


Singer-songwriter Billy Joe Royal, best known for a handful of hits in the mid-to-late ’60s, has died. He passed away at his home in North Carolina at age 73. Even though he was never a huge star, for a brief period music fans couldn’t escape Royal’s hits “Cherry Hill Park” “I Knew You When” and his signature song, “Down in the Boondocks.”

Royal was born in Georgia, where he had dreams of rock ‘n’ roll stardom after seeing Elvis Presley early on. “When he made it so big, all us Southern boys thought maybe we had a shot too,” he recalled on his website. Royal also received encouragement from another early pioneer, Roy Orbison, who told him to follow his dreams. After joining forces with singer-songwriter and producer Joe South, things took off. With South at the controls, the duo created Royal’s hit singles, all of which made it to the Top 20 (“Boondocks” climbed into the Top 10 in the summer of 1965).

In mid-1967, Royal and South released a song called “Hush.” While that original version failed to make the Top 40, it would go on to become a massive a year later in the hands of Deep Purple, who took the song to No. 4.

“Cherry Hill Park” would be Royal’s last big hit, clocking in at No. 15 in the fall of 1969. During the ’80s, he had a successful run as a country artist, racking up several top hits on the charts. He also remained a constant presence on oldies tours over the years. He is survived by ex-wife, daughter and two stepsons.

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