Billy Joe Royal who made his mark originally with pop music, with the hit song, "Down in the Boondocks." in 1965, has died, he was 73. He became a Vegas performer in the 70's and was a television actor as well.

He re-invented him self in the 1980's and became a country singer. Songs like "Burned like a rocket," and "I'll pin a note on your pillow, and "Tell it like it is," did well for him on the country charts. And that continued into the 90's. He became known to yet another generation in the 2000's when his early songs where being played a lot on "oldies" stations.

Friend and tour partner Ronnie McDowell told CNN that Royal passed away unexpectedly in his sleep. They were scheduled to start a tour after Thanksgiving. Royal was born in 1942 in Valdosta, Georgia, and raised north of Atlanta. He performed on local radio shows before moving to Savannah to perform with the house band at the Bamboo Ranch. There, he became friends with Roy Orbison and learned from guest performers at the club, including Sam Cooke, Fats Domino and The Isley Brothers, according to his biography.

CNN and Wikipedia contributed details to this report.

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