Black Oak Arkansas, the early 1970’s hillbilly blues-rock combo that fell on hard times but never quit rocking, announced on their Facebook page yesterday that they’ve signed a deal with Atlantic/Atco Records, and will release a new album called “Back Thar n’ Over Yonder” on Oct. 15 after a mini-tour with eight stops (none of which, unfortunately, is here in Arkansas).
Seen above is Black Oak Arkansas singer James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum — the first of the “golden boy” frontmen who would come to dominate 70’s and 80’s arena rock — giving a tour of the band’s bus “The Cli-Tye” (“We call it the Cli-Tye for reasons I can’t really explain over video. It, uh, symbolizes, you know, the clit area.”) back in the glory days. If buses could talk, we’d wager you would probably be fairly grossed out by what that particular chariot could reveal.
Black Oak Arkansas, originally known as “The Knowbody Else,” was formed in Black Oak in 1963 by several high school kids that eventually included golden-locked James “Jim Dandy” Mangrum. Drawing on a background in gospel, rock, blues and Country & Western, they eventually moved to Memphis in 1969 and signed with the legendary Stax Records, then on to Los Angeles where — ironically — they signed their first major-label deal with Atco Records, which was a subsidiary of Atlantic. They changed their name to “Black Oak Arkansas” just in time for their 1971 self-titled debut, which included gems like “When Electricity Came to Arkansas,” and “Hot and Nasty.”
After spending much of the 1970s cementing their reputation as the nasty-ass hillbillies of the already fairly nasty Southern Rock scene, playing everything from stadiums to speedways, Black Oak Arkansas began a slow slide to obscurity, eventually even dropping the “Arkansas” from their name at one point in an attempt to shed their Southern Rock baggage. After a series of lawsuits and bad business dealings led them to near poverty in the 1980s, the band drifted apart. Eventually, Mangrum and original members Rickie Lee Reynolds and Pat “Dirty” Daugherty started touring in the mid 1990s and never stopped. Talent on the new album will include those three, along with Jimmy “Soybean” Henderson, drummer Johnnie Bolin, bassist George Hughen, and guitarists Hal McCormack and Buddy Church.
Save your Dixie cups, friends. While Jim Dandy may be too long in the tooth to bed all the beauties he surely did on the Cli-Tye back in 1973, the South appears to be rising again.