Down In The Boondocks – Billy Joe Royal

THIS DAY IN MUSIC……………………………….on August 28th of 1965 Billy Joe Royal enjoys his biggest Pop hit when “Down In The Boondocks” peaks at #9 on the Hot 100. He would reach the Top 40 three more times with “I Knew You When”, “I’ve Got To Be Somebody” and “Cherry Hill Park” before finding success on the Country charts in the 1980s. Although his name sounds like a show biz moniker, he really was born Billy Joe Royal to Clarence Royal and Mary Sue Smith. “Down In The Boondocks” was written and produced by Joe South, a country/folk singer who had a substantial career in his own right. You’ll probably know him from either his 1969 hit “Games People Play” or his 1970 hit “Walk a Mile In My Shoes.” The song has become a staple of oldies’ radio since then, popular for its clear, distinct lyrics and clean guitar sound. The lyrics are easy to identify with, at least for us working folks.”Boondocks” is a word we’ve adopted for any rural area, the same as “out in the sticks.” But it was ported to the US through American servicemen stationed in the Philippines – there it comes from a Tagalog word meaning “mountain.” Even in the Philippines, a “boondock” means an uncultured or illiterate person from a rural area. Billy Joe Royal is a Baby Boomer musician who’s had a combination career – Pop-Rock in the ’60s, Country & Western since the ’80s. While mainstream audiences wonder if he’s disappeared since the ’60s, Country fans know his chart success starts with 1985’s “Burned Like a Rocket” at #10 on the US Country charts, and he had over a dozen more Top-40 charting singles there well into the ’90s. You can hear the American deep south in every syllable of Royal’s vocals; he hails from Valdosta, Georgia, from where you can just about pitch a ‘gator at the Florida border. Though a Top 10 hit in the US as is often the case in both directions  the song faltered in the UK barely making the Top 40 peaking at #38.