My tastes in music are varied I suppose would be the right description. At the moment my car CD player holds a gospel disc by Elvis, along with music by Jimmy Buffet, Jim Groce and Patsy Cline loaded. For sure, anything from the oldies era of my long ago youth is likely to be played. Jackie Wilson, the Drifters, beach music and certainly one of my all time favorites, Billy Joe Royal.
Because of this I was saddened to learn today that he passed away at his North Carolina home earlier today.
I got to hear him in person a number of times over the years. Only once in an upscale music setting when he fronted for Ronnie Milsap at Montgomery’s Performing Arts Center years ago. The best thing about that night is that I didn’t even know he was going to be there.
Other times the location was more, shall we say, “homey.” Like in a concrete block honky tonk in Franklin, AL. (For those of you who don’t know, Franklin is a wide place in the road on Highway 49 north of Tuskegee and south of Reeltown.) It was inappropriately called “Buddy’s Lounge.” But lounge conjures up thoughts of soft music and martinis. Nothing inside of Buddy’s made you think of such. Pool tables and a concrete floor and beer bottles crashing to the bottom of a barrel are hardly “loungey.”
My companion that night was a dear friend, who also happened to be the organist at a very large Baptist Church. I assured her that the chances of running across one of her fellow church members were somewhere between extremely slim to none. For once in my life I was right and no one who listened to her play the organ the next Sunday had any notion she had ever been to Franklin.
Strangely enough, I’m to leave Montgomery tomorrow morning and drive to Dadeville. I will go right by Buddy’s Lounge, which has not heard a beer bottle crashing, or Billy Joe Royal, in years. My mind will flash back to a long ago night and one of my favorite singers.
I will probably even remember this song.
So long Billy Joe. But my CD will keep on playing your music.