Gary James' Interview With
Billy Joe Royal

Back in 1965, a young singer by the name of Billy Joe Royal hit the charts with a catchy song called "Down In The Boondocks". Other songs followed; "Hush", "I Knew You When" and "The Greatest Love". Billy teamed up with Dick Clark's Cavalcade of Stars, made some movies with people like Bill Bixby and Robert Culp, cut some TV commercials, and even tried the Vegas scene. This year finds Billy back to recording again. His new album can be found on Kat Family Records, distributed by C.B.S. Records. We chatted with Billy Joe Royal about his extraordinary show biz career.

Q - What's the biggest change you've seen occur in the music industry?

A - Well, the business has been taken over in the last seven, eight years by lawyers. It used to be run by record junkie people, people who loved music and loved records. Since the lawyers came in, it's more of a business.

Q - Do you remember your days with Dick Clark?

A - In those days we'd do ninety one-nighters, a different town every night. Half the time I didn't know what state we were in.

Q - So many people in show biz grew up in the same area as you did and they all were successful — Mac Davis, Joe South, Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens. What accounts for Atlanta turning out so much talent?

A - I really don't know. I think the one reason we had any kind of success was I hope we had a little talent. The second reason was a man in town called Bill Lowrey. He had a little record company and a music publishing company. All the guys, with the exception of me, were good writers as well as singers and musicians. He kind of took everybody under his wing and guided us along. He's responsible for all of us getting started, even Brenda Lee and Gene Vincent.

Q - You met Sam Cooke early in your career, what was he like?

A - He was a heck of a gentleman and a great, great singer. He was my idol. He was extremely nice and gave me nothing but encouragement. To get that kind of praise from your idol was just too much. He was an innovator. I never heard anybody do the kind of licks he could do.

Q - Did you like Vegas?

A - At the time I didn't, I think I would like it now. At the time it was really sort of a plastic kind of town. 1 liked working there, I just didn't like the kind of music I had to do.

Q - Did you write "Down In the Boondocks"?

A - No, Joe South did.

Q - Why didn't you pursue acting?

A - As a singer you can always find some saloon to sing in and make a living. In acting, you can make one movie and not do another one for a year or two. Besides, I'm a much better singer than actor. That's the thing I do best.

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© Gary James. All rights reserved.

Note: Billy Joe Royal passed away on October 6th, 2015.