PARTY THIS FRIDAY WITH BLACK OAK ARKANSAS!!!
Black Oak Arkansas (“BOA”) was more southern than Skynyrd, raunchier than Blackfoot and raised more hell than Molly Hatchet. BOA was backseat sex with white-haired witches; Jesus and the Devil and Arkansas shine; triple-axe attacks of hillbilly rock; and the “scary basso profundo growls and testosterone-fueled antics of lead vocalist/showman James ‘Big Jim Dandy’ Mangrum.”
From All-Music Guide:
“The band toured extensively, building a reputation as a raw, incendiary live act that made up for occasional musical deficiencies with energy and the explicit sexuality of Mangrum, who flaunted his body at every opportunity and became known for such antics as miming sex with the washboard he used for musical accompaniment.”
When I was about seven I went through a spell where I listened to Black Oak’s “Hot ‘N Nasty” about twenty-seven times a day. Something about the song mesmerized me — the funky drummer intro, limber and lazy wank of greasy guitars and bump and grind bass, and most of all that rapsy cackle of the captivating frontman, Jim “Dandy” Mangrum.
Well-lll they caw meh / Hot ‘n nas-tehhh
Yeaahhh they caw meh / UNH – Mista fan-say
I stared back at the sign through my rearview mirror.
Problem was, it was the Monday afternoon after.
Soon as I got home, I went to the bar’s website and saw pictures of the show, including a happy and healthy Jim Dandy with his arm around a smokin’ hot fifty-ish blonde woman just outside the club’s back door. With a few clicks, I found the blonde’s contact, sent her an email and soon enough was on the phone with Mr. Hot ‘N Nasty himself.
Hey man, this is TNB Music, calling for an interview. Is this an all right time?
Never a bad time for Jim Dandy, brother.
Growing up, I went to a Pentecostal church and an evangelist came and did the backmasking anti-rock and roll thing. He played When Electricity Came to Arkansas backwards and said you were calling Satan. Man, I’ve been wanting to ask you about that pretty much all my life.
They were full of shit! Follow me now. I was into Indians. Still am. In fact, I’m gonna be buried on Indian burial grounds, up on a scaffold so the birds of prey can pick my eyeballs out and make me ugly. (roaring laughter)
That’s pretty rock and roll, right there.
So anyway, what I said on that record was Watash — a Navaho word for Hello — a greeting. This preacher is claiming I’m saying Satan backwards. I got him straight though.
My son was dating this girl and she was religious, so he went to one of these revivals with her. Preacher starts saying “Jim Dandy is in league with the devil”. Someone says, “Naw, he ain’t. His kid is right here.” So he stands up and the preacher says for me to meet him at a motel in Jonesboro, Arkansas. My boy said he’d put me on the phone with him right then and there. At the time I was drinking Wild Turkey with my daddy and we were watchin’ Cool Hand Luke. Having a good time… I set him straight though.
If it makes you feel any better I probably saw the same preacher and that guy turned me on to rock and roll. I went straight out to the Howard Brother’s Discount Store and bought Black Sabbath and Black Oak.
That the one with good on the one side and bad on the other?
That was Sabbath Bloody Sabbath. Paranoid had the guy with the sword.
Oh, yeah. Same guy did our album covers. Ozzy, he’s my buddy. We’re the same age.
I was talking to Glenn Hughes from Deep Purple awhile back about Cal Jam ’74. 250,000 people, paid. Tell me about that show.
Sabbath and us, we had the most people because we played the middle of the day. It was August hot, all them people…. Black Oak, we had a helicopter drop visors for the fans and they appreciated that.
Like sun visors? Hats?
Yeah, those fold out things.
Thousands, man. Hell, we were there for the people. Wouldn’t be nothin’ if it weren’t for them. ELP wasn’t worried about the damn people. They had that spinning piano thing….. As for Deep Purple, Richie Blackmore ran his guitar into the camera and it end up costing more than they got paid. Camera was a hundred grand, Purple only got sixty-five for the show!
The All-Music Guide bio mentions you simulating sex with a washboard on stage.
On stage? When they thought I was jacking off with it? Well, that just goes to show you that the human mind can make a phallic symbol out of a piece of hardware I guess.
David Lee Roth gives you lots of credit for inspiring his stage show.
He always gave me credit. He didn’t steal anything from me. It ain’t about us. I think we take ourselves too seriously sometimes.
What about the Elvis call that inspired you to record Jim Dandy?
I’ve been Jim Dandy since I was nine. Daddy named me that. But we were in the studio doing High on the Hog and they told me Elvis would be calling in two hours. He was nice to me when he didn’t have to be. Said we oughta cut Jim Dandy. Well, you don’t say no to the King of Rock and Roll! And he told me this: “Jim, it comes to us, not from us. We’ve got the best seat in the house.” That’s pretty profound right there. And then there was the Lennon thing…
Lennon put his hand on my shoulder one time and said, “Hey, can we talk in private?” He told me I was ahead of my time. Not so much in music, but in my words. They interrogated me once after Lennon was shot because of some of the things I said in Chicago. Seven and a half hours in a little room with no water. Told me if I didn’t quit talkin’ between songs I might not be alive. I just tried to do like Ray Charles said and stay country dumb. But I’m a natural born agitator–live and die.
So they government was afraid of the message you were preaching?
Come on son, I thought you were heavy metal? You gotta get a groove! They were the ones that shot him….
Natural Born Agitator would make a great record title.
Waylon used to tell me, “They don’t know what to think about you, hoss. Keep it that way.” I guess our stupid enthusiasm was contagious — longhaired country boys, smoking weed and talkin’ ‘bout karma….
We do a thing on TNB called either/or…
Ah, I don’t do beauty contests. (laughs)
Uh… OK, what bands in the last twenty years or so do you like?
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Foo Fighters. There’s a lot of good music out there.
How do you stay on the road in your 60s?
I turned 64 in March, two weeks ago I was 17! I stay busy. Got a new CD coming out called Memphis Mean Time and a song with Shooter Jennings on his new record called Fifteen Million Light Years Away. They oughta be out this summer but I’m in no hurry, Jim Dandy ain’t going nowhere. Black Oak is about giving kids hope.
Well, rock and roll gave me a lot of hope when I was a kid and still does to this day. I appreciate you getting up there and giving it your all. I know it isn’t always easy.
I appreciate you, brother. Hope to see you at a show. I always like to see old friends.
Me too, Jim. Hope to see y’all soon.
Hot ‘N Nasty – Self-Titled
When Electricity Came to Arkansas – Raunch ‘N Roll Live
Uncle Lijah / Lord Have Mercy on My Soul – The Best of Black Oak Arkansas
I Need More Love – The Black Attack is Back
Flying Horse of Louisiana – The Knowbody Else