Obituary: Royce Kendall
Monday 22 June 1998
Culled from the album Let the Music Play, both father and daughter were drawn to the song from the start. As Royce later recalled: "We'd only played the thing once, and we remembered it. That's a good sign . . . that's the reason we cut it." The song was originally the B-side to "Live and Let Live", but deejays began playing "Heaven's Just a Sin Away" instead. It went on to spend a month at the top of the country charts and netted the Kendalls awards from both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, and a Grammy.
Royce Kendall had originally performed alongside his brother Floyce as one half of a guitar-mandolin duo known as the Austin Brothers. They enjoyed only limited success and, after a spell in the army, Royce with his wife Melba settled in St Louis, where he worked as a barber.
Their daughter Jeannie started showing an interest in music whilst still in her early teens and the pair began to perform together locally. Their debut disc, "Round, Round, Round", gained them some airplay and ultimately a deal with Pete Drake's Nashville-based label Stop, but they had little empathy with the material they were offered - which included "Proud Mary" and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" - and the association proved short-lived.
Over the next few years they found themselves signed to, and then dropped by, both Dot and United Artists. In 1976, however, they met the producer Brian Fisher who had just moved to Nashville to establish Ovation Records' country division. He brought them on board and they recorded Let the Music Play, their debut album for the label, in just one day. Their first single for their new label, a cover of Jimmy Work's classic "Makin' Believe", had the misfortune to find itself pitched directly against a version of the same song by Emmylou Harris, and flopped.
However, their second, and more precisely its flip-side, catapulted both them and Ovation into the big time. In addition to its country success, it was played on pop and gospel radio; the Kendalls then were sent scores of song ideas featuring the words "heaven" and "sin" in the title. They followed "Heaven's Just a Sin Away" with Curly Putman's fine "It Don't Feel Like Sinnin' To Me" (1978) which reached No 2, "Pittsburgh Steelers" (1978) and then another chart-topper the same year, "Sweet Desire", which was written by Jeannie Kendall. Subsequent hits included "Just like Real People" and "You'd Make an Angel Wanna Cheat" (both 1979) and "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" (1980), which had been written by Dolly Parton and her uncle Bill Owens.
Ovation's 1981 bankruptcy in 1981 caused the Kendalls to move to the Mercury label, where the hits continued: "Teach Me to Cheat" (1981), "If You're Waiting on Me (You're Backing Up)" (1982) and, with additional harmony vocals courtesy of Emmylou Harris, "Precious Love" (1983). The following year they took Max D. Barnes and Robert John Jones' "Thank God for the Radio", now a classic, to the No 1 spot. As with "Heaven's Just a Sin Away",
Royce Kendall had felt good about the song from the off and despite the objections of their producer Blake Mevis, had insisted that they be allowed to cut it. It was to prove not only their final visit to the top of the charts but also to the Top Ten.
Royce Kendall (Royce Kykendall), singer: born St Louis, Missouri 25 September 1934; married (one daughter); died Marquette, Iowa 22 May 1998.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 A politically correct lefty goes to see Top Gear live – you'll probably believe what happened next
- 2 Woman accidentally shoots herself in the head while posing for a selfie
- 3 Isis burns woman alive for refusing to engage in 'extreme' sex act, UN says
- 4 Puerto Rico, island of lost dreams: People are leaving the debt-hit territory in droves as near neighbour Cuba's star rises
- 5 David Starkey 'tells Amal Clooney to shut up and stop over-promoting human rights'
Art Garfunkel calls Paul Simon a 'monster' with a Napoleon complex
Eurovision 2015 winner: Sweden beats Russia and Italy to take the title from Conchita Wurst
Dheepan, film review: Palme d'Or prize goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Game of Thrones, The Gift, Season 5, Episode 7: Why two of the show’s most iconic characters just met
Eurovision 2015: Estonia seemingly enters Louis Tomlinson from One Direction
As a white man, I'm surprised more women aren't tweeting the hashtag #KillAllWhiteMen
Scotland may have to leave the EU even if it votes to stay in, David Cameron confirms
The day that Britain resigned as a global power
Almost a third of school pupils believe 'Muslims are taking over our country', study claims
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
Gay marriage 'Bert and Ernie' cake bakery found guilty of discrimination in Northern Ireland