Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Interview: Jim “Dandy” Mangrum southern rock pioneer with Black Oak Arkansas

By Ray Shasho

Black Oak Arkansas (population 286 as of the 2000 census) was the hometown of Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, one of the most flamboyant lead singers in the history of rock ‘n’ roll.

The roots of the band, which would eventually be named after their hometown, was formed in 1965 and originally named ‘The Knowbody Else.’ The group was arrested for grand larceny for stealing musical equipment from several local high schools. They were sentenced to 26 years by a judge who may have been a bit biased about long-haired rock musicians in a small Southern Baptist town. The sentence was eventually suspended and the band left Arkansas.
 
After stops in Mississippi, New Orleans, and Memphis, ‘The Knowbody Else’ signed their first record contract with Stax Records. Unfortunately, their debut album had very little commercial success. Upon arriving in Los Angeles in 1970, the band signed a record deal with Atco Records under the name Black Oak Arkansas.’ Their self-titled debut album was released in 1971.


Black Oak Arkansas began touring extensively while establishing itself early on in their career as a hard-driving onstage presence and a rock ‘n’ roll force to be reckoned with. The fearless performances by a long blond haired- washboard strumming- flamboyant- sexually motivated- deep raspy voiced- backwoods frontman …backed by multi-guitarists and an inventive group of legitimate virtuosos who happened to smash their guitars onstage … paved the way for southern rock and became one of the most important bands in rock history.

In 1973, Black Oak Arkansas released their most commercially successful album to date entitled, High on the Hog. The album spawned the Lavern Baker remake “Jim Dandy” which became a huge hit for the band reaching #25 on Billboard’s Hot 100. The song was suggested by Elvis Presley and became the bands signature tune. Singer Ruby Starr contributed to the album and on the road. Starr had a significant and everlasting impact on the bands success. She would contribute to future albums and later began touring on her own. Sadly, Ruby Starr died in 1995.

In 1974, Black Oak Arkansas played the California Jam in Ontario, California for over 250,000 rock fans. The concert featured Rare Earth, Earth, Wind & Fire, Eagles, Seals & Crofts, Black Oak Arkansas, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Emerson Lake & Palmer.
The band also performed on the Midnight Special, Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert, and ABC’s In Concert.

Black Oak Arkansas in the 70s …( Black Oak Arkansas, Keep The Faith, If An Angel Came To See You Would You Make Her Feel At Home, Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live, High On The Hog, Street Party, Ain’t Life Grand, X-Rated, Live! Mutha, Balls Of Fire, Live On The King Biscuit Flower Hour, 10 Yr Overnight Success, Race with the Devil, I’d Rather Be Sailing).

Veteran rock drummer Tommy Aldridge (Pat Travers Band, Ozzy Osbourne, White Snake, Ted Nugent and Thin Lizzy) played with Black Oak Arkansas from 1972-76).

Some other notable tunes by Black Oak Arkansas include … “Hot and Nasty,” “Strong Enough to Be Gentle,” “Hot Rod,” “Happy Hooker,” “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul,” and “Mean Woman (If You Ever Blues)” to name just a few.
Throughout the 80s and 90s, the band had numerous lineup changes, but Jim “Dandy” Magrum largely remained in the spotlight.

Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth and Axl Rose of Guns N’ Roses were said to be influenced by Jim “Dandy” Mangrum for his onstage antics.

Black Oak Arkansas 80s and beyond … (Rebound, King Biscuit Flower Hour Presents: Black Oak Arkansas, The Wild Bunch, Live, Keep The Faith, Live At Royal Albert Hall, The Complete Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live, The Knowbody Else).

Black Oak Arkansas has maintained a steady stream of faithful followers throughout the years. Most recently, Jim “Dandy” Mangrum and Black Oak Arkansas will once again be recording on the Atlantic Records label including a new album in the works for 2013.

Original guitarist Rickie Lee Reynolds is also in the bands current lineup.

Black Oak Arkansas will also be part of Rock Legends Cruise II. The event billed as sort of a Woodstock on the high seas, launches January 10th and returns January 14th 2013. The Liberty of the Seas from Royal Caribbean departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl with a single stopover in Labadee, Haiti. Rock legends set to perform onboard the luxury passenger vessel include … Foreigner, Paul Rodgers (Bad Company), Credence Clearwater Revisited, Kansas, Bachman & Turner, .38 Special, The Marshall Tucker Band, Blue Oyster Cult, Foghat, Molly Hatchet, Kentucky Headhunters, Atlanta Rhythm Section, Pat Travers Band, The Artimus Pyle Band (Lynyrd Skynyrd) and Black Oak Arkansas.

For booking information visit http://rocklegendscruise.com/ or call 888-666-1499. Pricing begins at $699.00. The event is presented by Native American Heritage Association.

I had the great pleasure of speaking with Jim “Dandy” Mangrum last week from his home in Memphis.
Here’s my interview with singer/ musician/ southern rock pioneer/ legendary frontman for Black Oak Arkansas …. JIM “DANDY” MANGRUM.
Ray Shasho: Hi Jim how’s it going?
Jim Dandy: “Hey Ray …just another great day here in Memphis.”
Ray Shasho: Elvis land!
Jim Dandy: “Me and Rickie and Hal McCormack, my lead guitar player, and guitar player, we all three live here in Memphis, and of course it’s the closest city to the real Black Oak. My dad lives out in Jonesboro, I go back and forth to see him; he’ll be ninety in April …so what you up to?”
Ray Shasho: Did you ever in your wildest dreams ever think you’d be performing a rock concert on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean?
Jim Dandy: “I always thought maybe someday …“It’s funny; I’ve been on some six world tours and I’ve never been on a cruise ship, so I’m really looking forward to it and enjoy it a lot.”
Ray Shasho: This event is like Woodstock on the high seas, I’ve never seen anything like it.
Jim Dandy: “Twenty Five bands… play three times each … in three different locations … in three days. Chaos … sounds like home to me.”
Ray Shasho: I’m sure it’ll be great for you to see some old friends again too.
Jim Dandy: “We have a lot of friends who are going to be on it … Pat Travers, The Headhunters, Molly Hatchet, and just all kinds of people who we’ve known for a long time.”
Ray Shasho: I understand you guys played in Fort Myers recently?
Jim Dandy: “Just a couple of weeks ago. We had the greatest time… playing with Molly Hatchet and Blackfoot. We played out on the parking lot of the Ballyorney Irish Pub. An authentic club … everything shipped from Ireland, great food and drinks, we had a great crowd and it was good day.”
Ray Shasho: Besides the cruise …what’s new these day with “Jim Dandy” and Black Oak Arkansas?
Jim Dandy: “We’re signing back to Atlantic Records. They promoted us better than any other label and we’ll be recording here in Memphis … so 2013 is when it’ll be happening. We’ve also had some things in the vault; Tom Dowd had produced it and never got released, and we’re going to put that out also… it’s going to be from the past to present. And we’ve got a lot of new stuff too, so we’re excited about it.”
Ray Shasho: When the band was called ‘The Knowbody Else’ in Arkansas, you guys almost got into some major trouble for stealing music equipment?
Jim Dandy: “Yea … they got the meanest judge in Arkansas because they wanted to crucify us because we had long hair, we got suspended sentences and we served them. But we went on and had a great career, three gold albums, and one platinum. It was just a great adventure.”
Ray Shasho: I saw Black Oak Arkansas perform twice in the 70s around the Washington D.C. area and I was an instant fan when I first heard you guys.
Jim Dandy: “We loved what we were doing and still love what we do…me and Rickie are the two originals still together. I never expected the old guys to want to do it forever like I do. We’re still a strong fraternity … still frat brothers. As a matter of fact on the new album… it was the old guys who wanted to do one or two songs on there. I know they don’t want to be on the road or anything but I’m proud of the fact that we still love one another and still get along and everything. Not all the bands have that.”
Ray Shasho: “I’ve talked with so many guys who just flat out hate each other. After chatting with Mark Farner … they’ll never resolve their differences. And it’s a shame because bands like Grand Funk Railroad still have all the original members alive … just imagine the impact of a reunion.
Jim Dandy: “I know Mel, and relate to Mark a lot, he’s a good friend of mine, and Don Brewer… they sided with Terry Knight, and people like that …I hate that in the business, we all hear the same stories about managers. If they could play they wouldn’t need us, because they’re control freaks. They don’t leave room for the artistry and don’t give it any credit or respect. They try to cut them down to control them and they shouldn’t do that. I know a lot of great musicians that don’t know they’re even great, because mangers try and make them feel belittled like they’re not worth a crap.”
Ray Shasho: What are your thoughts about record companies?
Jim Dandy: “I’m going back to the one I had back in the 70s. (Laughing) They’ve gone through a lot of changes. Computers are just there …nobody has to be certified /qualified to have a computer, everybody owns everything, nobody owns nothing … I don’t have any say about what people do with my stuff …they really screwed up record companies. All I can say is that I’m happy to be back at Atlantic.”

“All these new labels… its very fertile ground for them, none of them have the seniority or savvy to know how to campaign product. It’s very important for the fans and the bands to have that bond for the songs. Everything has gotten smaller and smaller … down to CD’S, DVD’s and you can’t get much of a picture, no room for a poster in there, and can’t really put the words on there … but we’ll find a way. I love my fans … we were doing ‘Meet and Greets’ before they called it ‘Meet and Greets’. It’s just good to know your people.”

“People use to talk to me about stuff I didn’t know anything about, but that’s because I’m a conversationalist. I use to do fourteen interviews a day before a concert. That’s because I liked to have a conversation. I came from a place called Black Oak Arkansas which was nobody to talk to. I still like talking with people and having conversations.”
Ray Shasho: Jim do you have kids …grandkids?
Jim Dandy: “I have four boys, one girl, and three grandchildren. The grandchildren are eighteen, nine and six.”
Ray Shasho: Have you babysat the grandchildren?
Jim Dandy: “Hell no …I’m not a worthy grandparent, but I wasn’t a worthy parent either. I just liked to get hot and nasty, didn’t like wearing rubbers back then, so I had a lot of kids. But I kept up with them at least. I’m not trying to say I’m a saint and not trying to say that I’m evil …I am what I am.”
Ray Shasho: By the way “Hot and Nasty” was my favorite song.
Jim Dandy: “It was supposed to be like a joke you know, and everybody took it serious. But we still play it, and I still get hot and nasty …and I still love sex. I’m in good shape for 64. The amazing part to me is my dad use to say, “You’ve got to get into country music son because you can go over on your audience.” And that was true…but now you can do that with rock ‘n’ roll too. I’ve got them use to a stage show that’ll keep you in shape. (Laughing)”
Ray Shasho: Black Oak Arkansas use to smash up their instruments back in the day right?
Jim Dandy: “Yea, but they weren’t the real guitars. After the drum solo… those were Japanese hundred dollar specials. (All laughing) Then we’d give the guitars to radio stations or whoever and they’d give away the pieces or the parts.”
Ray Shasho: Every great band has a signature tune … of course yours is…“Jim Dandy.” I heard there was a connection with that song and Elvis Presley?
Jim Dandy: “It was George Klein a mutual friend that told me that Elvis was going to be calling me in exactly two hours, and he was always very punctual, and I had never met him yet. He told me I needed to do a song called Jim Dandy (to the Rescue). He had already told Ann Margaret to do it too. But he was into the Jim Dandy thing, and we put it in Hot and Nasty before that. I told him …You don’t say no to the ‘king of rock and roll’ and then I thought … that was corny, why did I say that for. Elvis said, “Rock ‘n’ roll was created by a disc jockey for his own pocketbook, I play rhythm and blues and gospel, and there ain’t but one king and I ain’t him.” But the coolest thing he said at the end of the conversation was… “Jim Dandy, it comes through us, not from us, we just got the best seat in the house.” …I thought, how noble.”

“But we did meet later on at Macon, Georgia at the Hilton. He was playing across the street and we were recording at Capricorn at the time. He was just a great person.”
“Him and Muhammad Ali …they are special and different than anybody else that filled that same position. They just ooze with personality. You could have your back to the door at the hotel and one of them walks in the lobby and you could feel it. Both of them are very exceptional.”
Ray Shasho: I got married in Henderson, Kentucky right over the bridge from Evansville, Indiana… and you first met Ruby Starr in Evansville?
Jim Dandy: “Yea, you’re right. We were playing an outdoor show … I think it was at a baseball stadium somewhere downtown and we walked by and heard her rehearsing with a band downstairs, I don’t know exactly where we were, and we got in touch with her and talked with her … and I love and miss her now so much. I miss her every day. We do a song for her every night when we play.”
Ray Shasho: I’ve talked with a lot of artists that played California Jam I and II, what was your impression of that huge event?
Jim Dandy: “It was wonderful, perfect for me, a crowd you can’t see the last row on, a gigantic PA, and I’m the master of ceremonies, a sacred gathering and ceremony, and it’s a sacred honor to be master of that ceremony, and it was perfect for me. Ozzie and Black Sabbath and Jim Dandy and Black Oak probably had more people than anybody because we played in the middle. I couldn’t understand why Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake and Palmer were fighting over who closed because people were worn out and there weren’t many people out there. Everybody there was headliners just about.”
Ray Shasho: Jim, are you a spiritual person?
Jim Dandy: “I’m a born Christian and my mama only had me born once. I definitely believe in Jesus and believe in God, but that’s all very personal stuff, I also believe in freedom of religion and freedom of choice and everybody do what they want to do. I don’t wish to bring my beliefs onto other people. If they seriously want to ask me about them I’ll answer them, I’m not going to hide anything I do. To me, it’s doing what I do, and God gave me the ability to do what I do. And I try to give him praise for what I do. But it ain’t going to be religious rock. We did, “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul” before there was religious rock… thank God.”

“Those self righteous sanctimonious sons of bitches always tried to put me down and they are so far from God, I can’t even tell you. And they do it in the name of God making lots of money. They just feel so good about themselves you know. Nobody should feel that good about themselves the way the world is today. The only thing we never seem to be able to do is the golden rule ….Love thy neighbor and do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
My daddy gave me the nickname, Elvis told me to do the song, and some things are thrust upon you, but if it weren’t for the people, we wouldn’t have the great job we got. It’s all about the people.”
Ray Shasho: You had a somewhat intimate conversation with John Lennon?
Jim Dandy: “I had the great pleasure of meeting John Lennon; he came across a room the size of three gymnasiums, put his hand on my shoulder and said can we go talk. He said I was ahead of my time but he wasn’t talking about our music. He was talking about the Bob Marley side of me. I had to go study up on Bob Marley …but it was the people stuff. I thought everybody talked to people through playing songs …and really everybody didn’t. (Laughing)”

“John Lennon himself told me … The Rolling Stones were the real band and The Beatles were the dream …and the dream was over. They wouldn’t even play after Shea Stadium, but the Stones went through all the imperfections of playing chaos… when you had bad PA’s, no monitors, and couldn’t hear themselves, and everything was terrible, but they kept on touring, and I love them for it.”

“Chuck Berry opened up for us once at the Palladium, and they were the surprise band for Chuck Berry. I was there when all that started. Keith ended up doing a movie with him. Chuck was the alpha male always, he came to our dressing room and was nice to us, but that’s not the kind of surprise you put on Chuck Berry.”
Ray Shasho: Jim, thank you so much for being on the call today and for all the great music you’ve given to all of us over the years.
Jim Dandy: “I really enjoyed talking to you … it was a great conversation. Just tell everyone to get ready … hope they’re ready for me, because I’m ready for them. We’re ready to give it all we can to please the people.”
Ray Shasho: I’m glad you guys are back with vengeance.
Jim Dandy: “Oh yea man, we got a reckoning coming! Thanks Ray.”

Special thanks to Tammy Hensley and also Jeff Albright of The Albright Entertainment Group for arranging this interview
Black Oak Arkansas on MySpace http://us.myspace.com/blackoakarkansas
Watch for a brand new album from Black Oak Arkansas in 2013!
Black Oak Arkansas will be part of Rock Legends Cruise II. The event billed as sort of a Woodstock on the high seas, launches January 10th and returns January 14th 2013. The Liberty of the Seas from Royal Caribbean departs from Ft. Lauderdale, Fl with a single stopover in Labadee, Haiti.
For booking information visit http://rocklegendscruise.com/ or call 888-666-1499. Pricing begins at $699.00. The event is presented by Native American Heritage Association.

Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at rockraymond.shasho@gmail.com

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