REST IN PEACE, BILLY JOE ROYAL 1942-2015
2007 JERRY HENRY INTERVIEW WITH BILLY JOE ROYAL :Fellow music lover, Robert Register, emailed me with news of Billy Joe Royal coming to Dothan. There is very little that happens in the music world in and around that area, past or present, that gets by Robert. He also provided me with Billy Joe's latest release Going By Daydreams (Raindrops Records) and if that wasn't enough, he set me up with a interview. Robert being friends with music business heavy weights Paul Cochran and Buddy Buie makes things happen.
Georgia born Billy Joe Royal hit the big time in the 60's with Joe South's "Down in the Boondocks." That hit was followed up with "I Knew You When" "Hush" and "Cherry Hill Park". He toured with Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars and came to Birmingham many times with WVOK's Shower of Stars. He returned with country hits in 1985 when he signed with Atlantic and cut "Burned Like A Rocket". Then charted with remakes of "I Miss You Already", "Tell It Like It Is", "Keep Right On Hurtin", "I'll Pin A Note On Your Pillow", plus a song that he penned himself "Love Has No Right". He has been touring with B.J. Thomas and a DVD of their show is available on-line from B.J Thomas Music.
Going By Daydreams was produced by super producer, Chips Moman. This is not a greatest hits project. It is definitely for the over 40 crowd that appreciates Billy Joe's smooth delivery.
The only recognizable cover on this CD is "Under the Boardwalk" which he does very well.
"Class of '65" takes us to our class reunion and asks; What would you do if you knew you never left my heart/what would you do if you knew that you are still tearing me apart.
Another in that same mind set "Where Did the 60's Go" that tells her; You're still my flower child/I'm still your freedom fighter.
Every song on this CD seem as if they were written for Billy Joe.
This is a great musical experience that truly showcases this legendary singer.
JWH-Billy Joe it's been quite a few years since I've talked with you. How are you doing?
BJR-I'm doing great.
JWH-Do you remember back in the 70's when you hung around my shop, the Surf Hut in Panama City Beach?
BJR-Man yea, that was right around the corner from the Red Rooster. Good Lord, that goes back a ways. I played the Red Rooster a lot. So you live in Tuscaloosa now.
JWH-Yea, actually in Northport which is just across the river. Did you ever play here?
BJR-Gosh, it's been awhile. But yes. I've played everywhere. (laughter) It seems like I played a place called the Front Page or the Back Page or something like that there years ago. I know there were some other places but I just can't remember. I do remember working at Joe Namath's place there. What was that Brother's 3? Do you remember?
JWH-That was Bachelors III. You played all over PC Beach, didn't you?
BJR-I sure did. I played the Breakers with Wayne Cochran and the C.C. Riders. I played the Old Dutch some too.
JWH-I used to see you with Joe South a lot back then.
BJR-Good Lord yea. Joe hung around Panama City all the time. He was another that hung around your place.
JWH-Joe wrote "Down in the Boondocks" for you. What else did he write?
BJR-He wrote "Hush". He wrote "I Knew You When", "The Greatest Love", lots of stuff for me. He wrote "I Didn't Promise You a Rose Garden" for me but we didn't have a hit with it. Lynn Anderson did but it was written for me.
JWH-You did the Vegas thing like Elvis. Did you meet him?
BJR-Oh yea! I played Vegas in 1970. The day before I opened, that was the last day of January, I went to see him and we visited a little bit. Later on down the line I played Lake Tahoe, I headlined the lounge and he headlined the main room and both of our names were on the marquee. You know I never took a picture of that and I never got a picture took of me and Elvis. Every night we saw each other. A friend of mine that played on the Boondocks, Emory Gordy Jr., was the bass player at the time with Elvis. So yea I saw him every night for about a month and became friends. You think people are going to live forever and you don't think much about things like that.
JWH-You have been all over the world and now you are coming to Dothan.
BJR-Yea I'm coming down there to Cowboys. I have a lot of friends down there. You know John Rainey Atkins and all those guys that make so much really good music in that part of the country. Bobby Goldsboro was from there, Buddy Buie, the guy that put the Candymen together for Roy Orbison lives there. Those guys later became Atlanta Rhythm Section. There's a lot of talent from around there. Jimmy Dean, who is still a good friend of mine, is still down there.
JWH-I have a copy of your CD and look forward to giving it a listen. I got it yesterday.
BJR-Super! That can be ordered on www.billyjoeroyal.com.
It was produced by Chips Moman and he wrote several of the songs. Chips is a legend in the business. He's written a million hits. He produced Elvis's comeback album. He produced Willie and Waylon, Neal Diamond, B.J. Thomas, anybody that's anybody. He wrote "Sweet Caroline". He wrote "Lukenbock, Texas". He wrote songs for Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, it goes on and on. Like I said he's a living legend. He's really something!
JWH-Did you ever get to go to Lukenbock?
BJR-No! (laughter) I have no idea where it is. (laughter)
JWH-I found it. It's in the middle of nowhere.
BJR-I just came from Houston, Texas and some friends of mine had been over there but no I have never seen the place. It's just a wide spot in the road isn't it?
JWH-It's just one store owned back then by a guy named Hondo.
BJR-What were you doing there?
JWH-I lived out there. I was in the radio business out in West Texas.
BJR-Yea, Good Lord, I've been there. How far is Midland from Lubbock?
BJR-That where Waylon and all those guys are from. Buddy Holley was from there too. We played out in Hobbs, New Mexico once and a bunch of us went over there. I hear it's a great music town.
JWH-Jesse Taylor, Joe Ely, Butch Hancock, Mac Davis, Terry Allen, Pat Green, Lloyd Maines and his Dixie Chick daughter Natalie are all from there.
BJR-You've been around. You been around this ole music business.
JWH-Back then, in the radio business, all of them wanted to know you. It was play me, play me.
BJR-(laughter) It had it's benefits both ways.
JWH-You're traveling with B.J. Thomas now aren't you?
BJR-Yea but not all the time. We just finished up Vegas last week. Right now I am riding around with a friend of mine checking out the venue for tomorrow. We're playing Goat, Music, and More down here in Lewisburg, Tennessee. It's a big deal here. Then we go to Retro Valley and I can't remember what's after that.
JWH-You stayed with it all these years. You never dropped out, did you?
BJR-No, I've been lucky enough to make a living doing what I wanted to do. Even when the records weren't happening, I got a deal with the Flamingo Hotel out in Vegas. As a matter of fact I moved to California and worked there and Lake Tahoe. In the 80's I moved back to Georgia and started going up to Nashville. Knock on wood I have always managed to work. This is what I always wanted to do.
JWH-When did you know this is what you wanted to do?
BJR-Well, I think I always knew. At least I wanted to. I came from a family that all they knew was work. They worked at a cotton mill. To make a living making music was kind of unheard of back then. I had uncles that played on the side and never full time. When I was 9 years old I took steel guitar lessons. I played and sang on a radio show. Anyway I got the bug. We moved to Atlanta and there was a show out of Eastpoint called the Georgia Jubilee. I auditioned for that. The regulars on that show was Jerry Reed, Ray Stevens, and Joe South. Freddie Weller and I auditioned the same day. There was all kind of fine talent with that. Then when it folded up I got a job down in Savannah and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I played in this huge club, the Bamboo Ranch,and anybody that was anybody played there. Joe South came down and started playing guitar. So as kids we played with Sam Cooke, Marty Robbins, George Jones, Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, the Isley Brothers, Faron Young and anybody that was anybody came through those doors. I've been lucky my whole life. I met Joe South that knew Bill Lowery. Joe and I had cut some stuff on our own which was just awful. We took it to Bill and he said he didn't like the stuff and he took us to Nashville. I had 6 or 7 records before "Down in the Boondocks". Of course it was on a major label and it hit.
JWH-So you were one of those 10 year over night successes?
BJR-(laughter) Not quite that long but quite a while. But I made it and don't have any complaints. The pipes are still working and I feel great. Yesterday I did a interview with The Country Weekly and they asked if everything was still working. (laughter) I told them I was healthy as a mule.
JWH-That's great to hear. Billy Joe I sure appreciate you calling and I look forward to listening to your CD tonight.
BJR-Thank You and I hope you guys get to come down and see me in Dothan. We can catch up on old times.
seated:Billy Joe Royal; standing left to right: DOWN IN THE BOONDOCKS composer and album producer Joe South, Tommy South, Fred Weller, Emory Gordy, Ricky Knight
A 2005 EMAIL FROM THE LATE ROBERT NIX DESCRIBING ALL THE MEN IN THE IMAGE ABOVE:
Re: Soliciting From "THOSE IN THE KNOW" Among The "CUBA, ALABAMA" Nation!
Sun, 29 May 2005 00:46:56 -0500
ROBERT, OF COURSE THAT'S JOE SOUTH AND A VERSION OF THE BELIEVERS. THAT'S WHENBILLY JOE WAS HOT AND HEAVY WITH 'DOWN IN THE BOONDOCKS' AND 'I KNEW YOU WHEN'. BILLY JOE AND ME GO BACK A LONG WAY YONDERS. HE CUT MY FIRST HIT RECORD, 'CHERRY HILL PARK', A SONG THATMR. CLIVE DAVIS GAVE UP ON IMMEDIATELY.BILL LOWERY WENT DOWN TO DAYTONA BEACH ONE WEEKEND TO THE DOG RACES. WHILE HE WAS RIDING ON THE BEACH THAT AFTERNOON HE HEARD A DISK JOCKEY SAY THAT 'CHERRY HILL PARK' HAD GONE #1 IN DAYTONA. HE QUICKLY GOT A WESTERN UNION TELEGRAM OFF TO C.B.S. RECORDS ANDCLIVE DAVIS. BILL SAID IF THIS RECORD COULD BE NO. 1 IN DAYTONA IT COULD BE A HIT IN ANY MARKET IN AMERICA. BILL WAS RIGHT. CLIVE DAVIS STARTED WORKING THE RECORD AGAIN AND IT BECAME A SMASH. I HAVE LOTS OF B.J.R. STORIES (MOSTLY R RATED). WE WILL GET INTO THEM LATER.
JOE SOUTH IS ONE OF THE BIGGEST INFLUENCES OF MY LIFE. HE IS A TRUE AMERICAN ORIGINAL. I'M SO BLESSED TO HAVE KNOWN AND WORKED WITH HIM. TOMMY SOUTH, JOE'S BROTHER AND DRUMMER, WAS A WONDERFUL GUY. THE DAY BEFORE HE DIED, HE CAME TOSTUDIO ONE AND ASKED ME TO TAKE A RIDE WITH HIM IN MY BRAND NEW T-BIRD. HE HAD A STEREO HOOKUP FOR MY SOUND SYSTEM IN MY CAR THAT WAS INCREDIBLE. ABOUT ONE IN THE MORNING HE LEFT THE STUDIO. THE NEXT MORNING, ABOUT TEN, TOMMY WAS GONE. HE COMMITTED SUICIDE. I STILL DON'T KNOW WHY.
EMORY GORDY WAS REALLY THE FIRST BASS PLAYER IN A.R.S. WE MADE A LOT OF RECORDS WITH EMORY ON BASS. HE WAS ALSO THE STAFF ARRANGER FOR JUST ABOUT EVERY RECORDING SESSION IN ATLANTA IN THOSE DAYS. A SUPER TALENT. HE WENT TO L.A. AND PLAYED WITH ELVIS, NEIL DIAMOND, AND EMMY LOU HARRISON'S HOT BAND AND DID MANY OTHER THINGS. I WROTE A FEW SONGS WITH EMORY. HE IS NOW MARRIED TO PATTY LOVELESS AND PRODUCING HER RECORDS.
FREDDY WELLER HAS HAD A GREAT AND MIXED BAG LIFE. HE STARTED WITH BILLY JOE, THEN BECAME PAUL REVERE AND THE RAIDERS GUITARIST. LATER HE HAD SOME MAJOR HITS AS A COUNTRY ARTISTS. IN BETWEEN ALL THIS HE MANAGED TO HAVE SEVERAL GIANT HITS LIKE 'DIZZY' WITH TOMMY ROE.
RICKY 'TICK' WAS JOE'S STAFF PIANO PLAYER AT MASTER SOUND. THIS WAS THE OLD SCHOOL HOUSE STUDIO THAT LOWERY AND BOB RICHARDSON PUT TOGETHER. WE ALL RECORDED AND LEARNED A LOT IN THAT OLD BUILDING. ONE PERSON MISSING FROM THIS PICTURE IS BARBARA SOUTH. SHE SANG SOME GREAT BACK-UP PARTS ON THESE EARLY RECORDS. ALSO LOU BRADLEY, OUR ENGINEER DESERVES A LOT OF CREDIT FOR MAKING A LOT OF YOUNG, FULL OF PISS ANDVINEGAR, DREAMERS, SOUND GREAT.
MORE LATER GATORS,
South by South
Great stuff there. A couple of Florida ties to these guys -- Tommy South was one of the later drummers in the Roemans, though long after Berry Oakley had departed. And Freddy Weller is credited with co-writing both sides of the first Movers single (Birmingham/Leave Me Loose). The Movers' drum head is clearly visible behind Billy Joe Royal in the film "Mondo Daytona"!Jeff Lemlich
"Fluoridation is the greatest case of scientific fraud of this century, if not of all time." - EPA scientist, Dr. Robert Carton (Downey, May 1999)
FROM A 2007 ZERO, NORTHWEST FLORIDA BLOG POST:
GOING BY DAYDREAMS will go into stores around October 15 but it is now available by mail from Billy Joe's myspace site or from his page on B.J. Thomas' website
Please go to both these sites to hear this superb collection of some of Billy Joe Royal's finest work.
If you see fit, please purchase the CD & encourage anyone on the Internet to link to the two sites above & have any journalist interested in interviewing Billy Joe to contact me & I'll arrange for Billy Joe to talk with them.
This is really important to our future here in ZERO, NORTHWEST FLORIDA so take a little time out of your busy day to give Billy Joe Royal's recording career a little push!
This cat has an absolutely flawless delivery and Billy Joe's voice seems to grow more beautiful as he grows older. He has a natural feel for what sounds right & he never misses a note.
These days Billy Joe Royal goes by the label of a Country artist but he brings along with that package 50 years of Rock & Roll, Gospel and Rhythm & Blues influences.
Billy Joe Royal is a master at doing exactly what he does best:
BEING BILLY JOE ROYAL!
"Joe Billy is one of the best guys around.
You've never known a person so unencumbered with celebrity.
Loves a good joke, or story, and is the type of guy that wishes well of everyone,and was an inspiration to me.
Not just for how he could sing but for how he treated people."
Rockin' Rodney Justo
Here's what Billy Joe had to say about his days before he was a successful recording artist when he was the featured performer Buddy Livingston & the Versitones (Versatiles?) at Savannah's Bamboo Ranch:
“When you’re young and your voice is just developing, if you sing five hours a night, six nights a week, you’re going to improve. We’d book in these big names like the Isley Brothers and
Sam Cooke, and I got the chance to know these people and watch them. When somebody did
something I thought was really cool, I had all this time on stage to work on it. You know, if they
had a spin or a vocal inflection, I’d just practice it until I got it right. I’d take whatever I liked,
whatever worked, and I just stored everything.”
Now here's a classic case of musical irony, Billy Joe Royal was making a big comeback on the Country charts in 1986 with his hit “Burned Like a Rocket.” Number 23 with a bullet…then the next week the Challenger space shuttle blew up and all the radio stations pulled his song off the air. A story I read on the Net said that on the morning of Jan. 28, 1986, a DJ on a big radio station
already had the song cued up on an automated tape system & played it immediately after the CBS coverage of the Challenger tragedy. Nobody thought it was funny.
In the liner notes for BILLY JOE ROYAL'S Now
and Then…Then and Now album, producer and fellow Georgia Music Hall of Fame Inductee Buddy Buie
, said of Royal:
“He amazed me with his unique vocal style and his ability to perform daring vocal gymnastics without sounding mechanical.
He was always soulful.”