Black Oak Arkansas kick up their heels at Osceola Musicfest

Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Jimmy "Jim Dandy" Mangrum takes time out to sign autographs for young and old fans alike, during the Balck Oak Arkansas performance in Osceola Friday night. (Town Crier photo/Nan Snider)

Osceola was all a flurry this weekend as the eighth annual Heritage Musicfest featured music and merriment from the 1970s era, complete with people in bell bottom trousers driving Volkswagen love bugs.

Southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas headlined the festivities on Friday night and took the stage with amps turned on high, flashing lights and voices belting out those familiar Jim Dandy songs.

Jim "Dandy" Mangrum and lead guitarist Ricky Lee Reynolds originated from northeast Arkansas and were classmates at Monette High School in the '70s before leaving school to pursue their dream of being world renowned entertainers.

Mangrum originated from Black Oak, and his parents C.L. and Elsie Mangrum still reside there. His high school band half jokingly called their newly formed rock and roll band Black Oak Arkansas, and it was so well received that it stuck. Now the town and the rockers are synonymous, as visitors to the small town, east of Jonesboro, often stop at local businesses to inquire about the band.

Reynolds' parents were Vernon and Lois Reynolds, of Monette, both deceased.

Members of the current Black Oak Arkansas band include Mangrum, Reynolds, Hal McCormick, Johnny Bolin, and Alvin Oliveria.

The band has three gold albums to their credit, as well as guest appearances and national talk shows and music entertainment functions. Mangrum is quick to tell the story of how the king himself, Elvis Presley, first encouraged them to perform their signature song, "Jim Dandy to the Rescue," written by LaVerne Baker. The rest is history, as they went on to perform with KISS, Bad Company, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, 38 Special, Eagles, Styx, Foghat, Grand Funk Railroad, Ted Nugent, Allman Brothers, B.B. King, Iron Butterfly, and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The Osceola crowd came out in force to see the band on Friday night, and the audience was made up of people from all age groups, young to senior citizens. They could be seen clapping their hands while seated comfortably on large bales of hay placed throughout the downtown courthouse square area.

Bands and artists performing on Friday night and Saturday afternoon at Musicfest included Highway 61, Traxion and Bad Mojo, The Biscuit Hounds, Watermelon Slim, Ashley McBryde, Buddy Nemenz, Memphis Sound and Jackie Johnson, Eric Hughes Band, Reba Russell, and Duwayne Burnside and The Mississippi Mafia.

Saturday morning festivities began at 9:00 a.m. with the Mr. and Miss Osceola Heritage Musicfest pageant presented by Michelle Stillwell of Arkansas Southern Charmers.

Glynda Thompson and Betty Alexander opened the doors to the Mississippi County Historical Center, on the west side of the square, and invited visitors inside to tour the museum collections and artifacts. The 1902 Fred G. Patterson store building serves as home to the museum and is staffed by volunteers from the Mississippi County Historical and Genealogical Society.

Thompson and Alexander directed tours during open house, stopping to show visitors details about the founding of the city and county. Several well known people lived in the area, which included Dale Rogers, Johnny Cash, Sweet Willie Bloom, and John Dresbach.

Thompson displayed several old guns and weapons, uniforms and clothing, and a turn of the century ladies corset, complete with bone staves and garters.

The museum atmosphere wouldn't be complete without music in the background, so Thompson cranked up the Victrola and played a record by Sweet Willie Jones, singing "Osceola Blues" written by Walter Jones Jr.

Ninety-six motorcyclists took part in the festival's Poker Run, which left at 10 a.m. for a four hour ride. Organizer Oscar Gonzalez reported over $2,500 was raised during the run.

Proceeds from all festival events are placed back in the Main Street Osceola fund to offset expenses of the 2006 Musicfest and to make plans for the 2007 event. John Newcomb serves as Main Street Osceola chairman, Philip Adcock is president and Beau Butler is executive director.

"Our Musicfest sponsors donated over $24,000 this year just to get us started," Sandra Brand, committee member, said. "The people of the Osceola area want to see this Musicfest tradition continued. It is a great community activity and gives people a chance to just sit, visit and enjoy being outside with the music filling the air."

Before the Musicfest was over, before the winners were named, before the funding was counted, and before the last guitar belted out a familiar tune, Main Street Osceola organizers were already making plans for next year.

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