“Down in the Boondocks” is a song penned by Joe South and recorded by Billy Joe Royal. It was a hit in 1965. Though the song only climbed to number 9, it was Billy Joe Royal’s biggest career hit. Billy Joe Royal sang it with a tremulous tenor and strong delivery. He was singing at a Cincinnati nightclub, Guys and Dolls when Joe South asked him to make a demonstration record of “Down in the Boondocks,” which he yearned to sell to Gene Pitney. Bill Lowery, a music producer, and publisher in Atlanta heard the record and brought it to Columbia, which signed Royal a contract.
Story of the Song
“Down in the Boondocks,” speaks the bitter cry of a “boy from down in the boondocks” in love with a rich girl. “Boondocks” is a word coined for any rural area, the same as “out in the sticks”. Also, it was ported by the American servicemen stationed in the Philippines to the US. It stemmed from a Tagalog word “bundok” – meaning “mountain.” The people who live and are born in the boondocks are considered to be of a lower class than those in the city. The boondocks boy croons of a girl who lives close, for whom he feels love and bargains for it occasionally. The girl’s father is the singer’s boss, which, along with the social union, inhibits him from declaring his love and connecting with them, despite the shared feelings.
The singer then claims that one fine day, he will find a way, to move from that old shack. He hopes that by that time, apparently, he will be able to join the higher class in the society and finally be able to date the girl freely. It has become a staple of oldies’ radio since then, popular for its pure, distinct lyrics and soothing guitar sound. The lyrics are also easy to recognize, especially for working folks.
“Down in the boondocks ,down in the boondocks
People put me down ’cause,
That’s the side of town I was born in
I love her she loves me but I don’t fit in her society
Lord have mercy on the boy from down in the boondocks.”
Sing along with Billy Joe Royal to “Down in the Boondocks” video below.