I had been an admirer of this guy’s stage appearance ever since I heard of his band back in the early 1970s. I wasn’t the only one…a young man by the name of David Lee Roth also was admiring this guy’s stage antics and theatrics; when Roth joined Van Halen, he took a lot of the moves he learned from this Benton Harbor man and perfected them in his years with Eddie, Alex, and Michael.

The man in question is Jim “Dandy” Mangrum, lead vocalist for Black Oak Arkansas. He was born in Benton Harbor on March 30, 1948. His parents, J.C. and Elsie Mangrum, came to Michigan from Arkansas and not long afterward, little James Leslie Mangrum was born at Benton Harbor’s Mercy Hospital (the hospital was torn down in the early 2020s).

The family moved back to Arkansas, just outside of Black Oak where his folks earned a living as cotton farmers.

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Jim’s music career began in 1964 when he and three buddies stole sound equipment from the high school to use for their new rock band. They were arrested and charged with eight 8-year sentences to a prison farm. The sentences were eventually suspended.

Calling themselves The Knowbody Else, they recorded an album in Memphis that stiffed. They found their way to Los Angeles by 1968 and changed their name to Black Oak Arkansas. Atco Records producer Ahmet Ertegun was drawn to Jim by his long, flowing, waist-length blond hair, not to mention his tight white spandex pants. Their first album was released in 1971.

In 1973 they made the Top 40 with their one and only – and still memorable – hit, “Jim Dandy”, an old 1956 LaVern Baker hit. The song’s success earned him the stage name “Jim Dandy”.

Black Oak Arkansas had changing personnel throughout 1971-1978 except for Mangrum and recorded 15 albums in that time. Sporadic recordings followed over the years and Jim, now in his 70s, still performs in spite of various heart attacks and other health problems.

Not bad for a Michigan guy from Benton Harbor.

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum: Born in Benton Harbor


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