By Leah Williams

Published 4/10/08


Jim Dandy, Black Oak Arkansas

With five decades in and counting, one legendary rock band is showing no signs of slowing down.

I've never stopped and I'm never going to stop. It's a big, big world, said Jim Dandy Mangrum, vocalist for Black Oak Arkansas. "I love it too much to quit."

In an exclusive interview with the Nightlife, Mangrum talks about remaining true in the music business and how much rock it takes to uphold the southern-rock genre for the duration of his career.

Black Oak Arkansas will play Saturday, April 12 at Stix, with opening acts Drivin' Rain and Poor King. Cost is $10 for advance tickets, and $15 at the door.

Originally known as Knowbody Else, the band has its beginnings in 1965 in the small southern town when a bunch of aspiring musicians banded together because they couldn't find work elsewhere. Due to lack of funds, the guys were not able to buy any equipment and ended up stealing a PA system from a local high school. The band ended up spending jail time for larceny and was practically run out of town. They moved to the nearby hills before leaving for New Orleans in 1969.

Black Oak Arkansas recorded their first album under the new moniker about six years later. The name came from Mangrum's hometown, which has less than three-hundred people residing.

Early on in the career, the band ran an intense touring schedule, sometimes staying on the road for ten months at a time. Black Oak Arkansas also boasted ten charting albums between 1971 and 1976. A top-thirty single also followed when the band covered LaVern Baker's rhythm and blues hit "Jim Dandy to the Rescue." The song soon became Mangrum's stage signature.

Street Party, which came out in 1974, failed to match the success of its predecessor, but later that year Early Times made up for the lost time. It was also the last album to feature all of the band's original members.

In 1984, Black Oak Arkansas enjoyed a resurgence with Ready as Hell, which debuted a heavier sound than of records past. The disc also had unveiled new additions such as pinch harmonics and keyboards and marked the return of Rickie Lee Reynolds on rhythm guitar. And in 1996, The Wild Bunch introduced a whole new generation to the Black Oak southern style.

The band's effect on the music business has proved everlasting. Since first exploding onto the music scene in the 1960s, Black Oak Arkansas has garnered three gold records. In 1974, the group had Kiss and Bad Company as opening acts, the first American tour for both bands. Other bands that Black Oak Arkansas has toured with include Aerosmith, the Eagles, Stix, Foghat, B.B. King, Ted Nugent, and Grand Funk Railroad.

The current Black Oak Arkansas lineup consists of original singer and wildman Mangrum on vocals, original member Rickie Lee Reynolds on guitar, George Hughen (ex-Greyghost) on bass, Johnnie Bolin (formerly of the Tommy Bolin Band) on drums, and Hal McCormack on lead guitar. According to the band's site, McCormack has been a member of Tora Tora, Deep South, Uprisin, Survivor (with Jimi Jamison), and other groups.

According to the band's MySpace page, Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd, Thirty-eight Special, the Allman Brothers, and Molly Hatchet copied Black Oak Arkansas's musical style, even though the original band did not quite reach the same heights of popularity as those aforementioned musical acts.

Other entertainers have named the group as a major influence, including World Wrestling Entertainment's Ric "Nature Boy" Flair, Mö tley Crüe's Vince Neil, and Guns 'n' Roses front man Axl Rose. And David Lee Roth has been known to have said he borrowed his stage persona and likeness from Mangrum's performance antics and personal appearance.