- - Sunday, June 21, 2015

The band Black Oak Arkansas is best known for the classic rock staple “Jim Dandy,” an anthem named after and sung by their frontman, Jim “Dandy” Mangrum. For over five decades, Mr. Mangrum has been Southern rock’s most colorful and outrageous lead singer.

Many say David Lee Roth developed/stole his entire onstage persona after watching Mr. Mangrum. Spending just a few minutes with him makes that theory convincing.

Mr. Mangrum spoke with The Washington Times surrounded by fans and discussed meeting Elvis, “not inhaling” with old pal Bill Clinton, his pro-pot stance and how this simple man became “Jim Dandy.”

Question: Do you do a lot of meet-and-greets?

Answer: Always. We were doing meet-and-greets before they even called it that. I used to have people in other bands mad at me, and they didn’t like being mad at me because they liked me. They would say, “We used to be able to just get high in our hotel rooms, but now we’ve got to keep up with you.” To me, the main thing is people, the fans. Because of them, I get to do this.

Q: Is it true you smoked pot with a young Bill Clinton?

A: When I first met Bill Clinton, he was president of [the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)]. When he became president and was asked about if he smoked pot, he said, “Yes, but I didn’t inhale.” When they came around to ask me [and asked] if I used to smoke pot with him, I said, “Yeah, but I didn’t inhale either.”

Bill Clinton thought it was great and funny that I said the same thing he did. Everybody laughed because they knew I’d inhaled.

Q: Was it crazy to have someone you “didn’t inhale” with end up as president?

A: I thought it was a great thing. Pot shouldn’t be illegal. It doesn’t make you 10 feet tall and bulletproof. I don’t think you should make so many laws for people. Sometimes people abuse things because you make them against the law. With pot, all I ever see is people getting in a better mood. And maybe get the munchies.

Q: Would you let your kids smoke pot?

A: I was concerned with some of my children. Sometimes they would smoke pot and end up just staring out the window with a big glass of sweet tea just watching the grass grow instead of cutting it. [laughs] I wanted them to still have drive and initiative to want to do things. I told them, “Don’t go smoking in public in empty warehouses and get busted [and] lose your freedom. Come to the house if you’re going to do it.”

I told them, “Don’t ever get in my stash, though.” I started noticing that I never ran out. They kept putting a little bit in there — so they wouldn’t run out.

Q: Would Hillary Rodham Clinton make a good president?

A: She’ll do just fine. Bill can help her.

Q: Did you ever imagine when you started that Black Oak Arkansas still would be around in 2015?

A: I’m 65. Two weeks ago, I was 17. I have four boys and one girl. I’m a granddaddy now. I knew from the beginning I would be doing this till the day I die. As long as they let me get away with it. They never should have let me get away with it the first time.

Q: Is it true you met Elvis?

A: He’s the one that told me to cover “Jim Dandy to the Rescue.” I never knew that song existed.

Q: How did you get the nickname “Jim Dandy”?

A: My daddy gave me the nickname when I was 9 years old. I hated it when I was young, but I wouldn’t tell him. I’ve learned that to be a “Dandy,” it is mainly about individuality and free speech. They say that the closest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s what it is between my heart and my mouth.

Q: Who from the original lineup of Black Oak Arkansas is still in the band?

A: Me and [guitarist] Ricky Lee [Reynolds]. We’ve been together since ninth grade. Plus [bassist] Pat “Dirty” Daugherty and [guitarist] Jimmy “Soybean” Henderson. It’s like a fraternity, and even though they may not always want to be on this road, we’re still frat brothers.

I never went to college. I went to the school of hard knocks and paid for my education by getting ripped off. It’s been a great adventure, and I’ve outlived my adversaries.

Q: Do you think David Lee Roth stole his stage persona from you?

A: If he did, I’m flattered. I’m the original.

Q: What is your motto?

A: Treat other people the way you want to be treated. Most people won’t do that because it makes them vulnerable.

Q: You are a hell of a talker.

A: I’m a conversationalist. I came out of a town with only 300 people. I didn’t have anybody to talk to. I didn’t want to talk about farming. So when I came out in the world, I started talking. Never stopped.

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