Legendary Artist Billy Joe Royal Dies in His Sleep

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Submitted by Cashbox Canada

Four decades of an impressively resilient career, Billy Joe Royal’s soul-drenched voice was stilled on October 6, 2015, passing away in his sleep in his North Carolina home.

Billy Joe Royal got his big break when he was performing in Savannah, Georgia. His roommate, Joe South, asked him to record a demo of a song he’d written. Billy Joe did so well that he got a record deal with Columbia. With a string of hits in the pop world, he established himself with “Down In The Boondocks,” “I Knew You When” and “Cherry Hill Park”, establishing himself on the charts in the 1960’s.

Even as a kid, he knew music was central to his personality. Like many of his peers, he recognized that it could also be his source of income after he saw Elvis Presley—another guy who mixed, pop, country and R&B—on The Tommy Dorsey Show.  “When he made it so big,” Royal reflects, “all us Southern boys thought maybe we had a shot, too.” Elvis and Royal became friends when both played Las Vegas during the ‘70s.

After his initial success, he continued to make music signed to a number of smaller labels before finally settling in Nashville with Atlantic Records. In the 1980s he still saw success in the US Country chart, with songs like “Tell It Like It Is”and “Till I Can't Take It Anymore”.

Billy Joe Royal was honoured by the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1988, meaning he now sits alongside stars like Ray Charles, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Otis Reading and James Brown.

At press time no funeral plans have been announced yet.