Forgotten 45: “Jim Dandy”

If you grew up in the 1970s, you probably knew at least one person who was deeply into Black Oak Arkansas. He was generally a guy with stringy hair down to his scrotum whose passions in life besides Black Oak were a shitbox car he called a hot rod and a skanky girl from the next town over who wore too much makeup and smoked a lot.

Black Oak Arkansas never made it to the southern-rock big leagues, but they sold a fair amount of records in the first half of the 1970s, the most famous of which was the single “Jim Dandy” in 1974. It was inevitable that they’d record the song, an R&B tune originally recorded by Lavern Baker in the 1950s, because the group’s lead singer was known as Jim “Dandy” Mangrum. The record is allegedly a duet with female singer Ruby Starr, although all she does is yell “Go Jim Dandy” while Mangrum honks his way through the song with all the charm of a runaway livestock truck. Still, it was pretty unusual to hear something that rocked so hard on the radio in early 1974–another sign that the Top 40 was coming off the bottom it scraped during the dismal last half of 1973.

If you can name another song by Black Oak, it’s probably “Lord Have Mercy on My Soul,” from their debut album. Fairly early in my career as a wedding-reception DJ, I was doing a party at which a highly intoxicated guest kept badgering me to play it. Any wedding DJ will tell you that the best way to deal with drunks is to ignore them, because they usually can’t outlast you. This guy could really hold his liquor, though, and he persisted for several hours, so I finally gave in.

It didn’t just clear the dance floor, it cleared the whole damn party. Forgive me; I was new.

(Atco 6948, chart peak #25, February 16, 1974)

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