BLACK OAK ARKANSAS
Black Oak Arkansas, a popular rock and roll band of the 1970s from rural Arkansas near Black Oak, was the first Arkansas rock band to have significant commercial success.
Originally called the Knowbody Else, the band was formed in 1965 by singer James "Jim Dandy" Magnum from Black Oak and guitarist Ricky Reynolds. The band was signed to Stax Records and released an album, The Knowbody Else, on Enterprise, a Stax subsidiary, as well as Early Times, which was released on Stax. Despite the failure of these albums, the band continued touring the nation and was “discovered” in California by Ahmet Ertegun of Atlantic Records, who signed the band in 1970. They changed their name to Black Oak Arkansas and released the eponymous album Black Oak Arkansas in 1971 on Atco, a subsidiary of Atlantic.
The Atco debut, which mixed hard rock, down-home Dixie boogie, and quasi-mystical country music, featured Mangrum on vocals and washboard, Reynolds on guitar, Harvey “Burley” Jett and Stanley “Goober” Knight on guitars, Pat “Dirty” Daugherty on bass guitar, and Wayne “Squeezebox” Evans on drums. Besides the three-guitar harmony, the band’s sound was characterized by Jim Dandy’s gravelly voice. The album benefited from the airplay of “underground” radio programs such as the late-night program Beaker Street on KAAY (AM 1090 out of Little Rock), which introduced the band to a national audience by making such songs as “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul,” “When Electricity Came to Arkansas,” “Hot and Nasty,” and “Uncle Lijah” staples of its program.
Following the success of Black Oak Arkansas, the band toured extensively from 1972 to 1977 and became known for its high-energy shows and Mangrum’s overt sexuality. In those years, the band was one of the highest grossing live acts in the United States. The blond, long-haired Mangrum performed bare-chested and wore tight, white spandex pants, influencing such performers as David Lee Roth, Jesse James DuPree, and Axl Rose in later years.
After the Atco debut album, Tommy Aldridge replaced Wayne Evans on drums, as the band became a more professional touring unit. In 1972, the band released two well-received albums, Keep the Faith and If An Angel Came to See You, Would You Make Her Feel At Home? In 1973, the album Raunch ‘N’ Roll Live documented the fire of their live performances. Jimmy Henderson replaced Harvey Jett on guitar in June 1974.
The follow-up album, 1973’s High on the Hog, featured the band’s only Top 40 hit, a fiery version of LaVern Baker’s rhythm and blues classic “Jim Dandy,” which featured a duet between Mangrum and female singer Ruby Starr, who began touring regularly with the band. High on the Hog peaked at No. 52 on the Billboard album charts.
In 1974, the band released the album Street Party. Their 1975 album Ain’t Life Grand, which featured a version of the Beatles’ “Taxman,” was the last for the classic lineup of the band.