I never reference Wikipedia. Ever. OK, sometimes, I might borrow three words. But I have to be desperate before I’ll stoop that low. This is probably due to my Daddy being a proud member of the World Book Encyclopedia sales force in the early 1960’s. It was a difficult job. He didn’t quite go door-to-door; he was given “leads” by the regional office. But he worked ten-hour days, and had to lug those heavy books everywhere. — “Those heavy books”. Some of you are gonna wonder what that means. Well, encyclopedias were produced in print back in the day, in many volumes. It took a lot of books to go from A to Z. Add ‘em up; they were heavy. And Daddy was only stood 5’5” tall – a little fellow.
If you sold World Book, or its way high-brow competitor, Encyclopedia Britannica, you probably lived, breathed and ate it, so to speak. You’d have to. As I mentioned, it wasn’t a particularly easy job for one to have. But it was a suitable occupation for a brainiac like my Daddy. It was a fine body of work; the addition of a set of World Books would actually be a blessing to any home. I read the whole thing when I was twelve. Could not get enough of it.
Daddy would not have been impressed with Wikipedia. And, an Encyclopedia Britannica seller from back in 1961 would probably be rolling like Beethoven were they to learn of Wikipedia. – Or I could be totally wrong. Maybe they’d think it was a hilarious idea; or maybe they’d think it was a great idea. But I can personally do without it. Until someone wants to write an entry entitled, “Randy Bowles, Storyteller”.
That said, I purposely turned to Wikipedia to glean material for this story. And I copied entire sections! But for your convenience, I combed through, and eliminated an entire World Book volume of superfluous BS, saving only the most essential tidbits, which I offer here. And today’s Wikipedia subject, kiddies, is the third-tier southern rock band, Black Oak Arkansas.
Uh-oh! If you’ve heard of ‘em, you may be getting ready to click the hell out of Dodge and go twitter “OMG” at someone. But wait! You don’t have to like the band to enjoy my story. In fact, you may like it better. So stick around and give a guy a chance. Here: read up on “BOA” a little. I now present some of their greatest non-achievements, from such an appropriate source. [I’ve inserted a few notes, which you will find in brackets:]
“The band’s first PA system was stolen from Monette High School. The group then cleaned out an old galvanized grain bin on the edge of town and began blasting out ear-piercing sounds that echoed their special blend of music that came from rock, gospel, country and blues influences….
Members of the group were subsequently charged in absentia with grand larceny and sentenced to 26 years at the Tucker Prison Farm, a sentence that was later suspended. This led to their retreat to the hills of rural north-central Arkansas where they lived off the land and refined their musical style. [No, they didn’t refine their musical style.]
Their self-titled debut album was largely ignored by the public. The record featured enduring BOA classics like “Hot And Nasty” and “When Electricity Came To Arkansas”, which was wrongfully accused by fundamentalist religious groups of containing backward-masked “Satanic messages”….
The song, “Jim Dandy To The Rescue (Go, Jim Dandy)” was covered by the band, and featured Jim “Dandy” Mangrum and female vocalist Ruby Starr trading off vocals. It was the first single from their 1973 album High on the Hog.
Another enduring BOA concert favorite, “Mutants Of The Monster”….
Their first live concert album featured songs like “Gigolo”, “Gettin’ Kinda Cocky”, as well as the BOA classic: “Hot Rod”, which features Jim Dandy’s sly double-entendre lyrics….
‘High on the Hog’ also included perennial favorite “Happy Hooker” and the instrumental “Moonshine Sonata”….
They released X-Rated later in 1975, which marked the beginning of Black Oak Arkansas’ decline…. [How could one tell?]
Also in ’76, Atco released a final BOA contractual obligation album…. [Those are always golden. — The contractual obligation album.]
[Fast forward a good decade, for this last bit, which I include to show that they released something around the time this story happens. They was current, Dude.]
The Wild Bunch CD was released November 2, 1999….”
Whew! OK! You now know way more than you need to know, to enjoy this story, which I will get to immediatement.
I worked at Seattle’s Experience Music Project from 2000 to 2004, where I strove to give a world-class welcome to practically a million people. If you’ve read my previous tales, or if you know me, then you understand how I loved EMP. I took great pride in it. And I followed every rule, to the letter. Well…. I followed a lot of the rules. But! I helped enforce them, too.
One day, EMP imposed a new rule on our valued visitors. Everyone who came in the door would have his or her duffle/knapsack/Kenya bag/briefcase/purse eyeballed, and measured if need be, to ensure that it was no bigger than 35” long. No one could enter the museum’s exhibit spaces with an oversized bag. No exceptions. Members and non-members alike. All oversized bags, from that day forward, would be stowed at coat check.
Well, if you were a member of EMP’s Visitors Service staff, you would occasionally rotate into coat check. While I was usually in Sound Lab, where I helped people learn/play/jam on guitars and the like, I did pull a few shifts in coat check. Not the most exciting job in the world.
I recall getting to know a new member named Gene. He was a middle-aged, overweight, blue-collar guy with thinning, medium-length hair. I was present the first time he visited EMP. I regularly engaged guests, to offer assistance, to chat, to help the party get started. So Gene and I talked. He said he was there for the first time, and he was lovin’ it. He was a little rough around the edges, and not exactly well-spoken; but we were close to the same age, and we established a bit of rapport that day. I mean, we both were obsessed with music. I viewed a couple of exhibits with him, as it was a slow day. He stayed until closing, and he made a point of saying goodbye to me when he left. Well, he showed up a couple more times; and one day, he informed me that he had become a member. That meant he could come every day if he chose to. And he did come often. He was always very friendly — happy; and he always had something good to say about a guitar or something he had seen that day. He would stop in Sound Lab and jam away on the instruments, or just sit in Guitar Gallery, surrounded by the world’s most iconic axes which were enshrined as if they were King Tut’s own relics. He dug EMP, and he fit in nicely.
And he always had his fairly large, black bag with him. He had a black leather jacket, often a black T, and his black bag. Not odd. Rock ‘n roll people like the black. Gene had the complete ensemble.
Well, yeah. The day came when The Rule came. All large bags were to be checked. And there were some problems with that. Not everyone was happy about having to part with his or her bag. I got that. Tempers sometimes flared.
Inevitibly, the day came when Gene returned to EMP for one of his beloved visits. I saw him come in, and of course, I was working coat check. He got in line to go through the turnstile to enter “La La Land”, as I called it: the museum proper. However, our large security officer approached him to say that he would need to check his bag. Apparently, Gene was more attached to that bag than even I knew. Because he got angry. Gene’s entire persona changed. His face started turning red. He seemed to grow larger. – You’ve seen how a guy changes when he gets really mad….
Gene gritted his teeth, and spat out one syllable: “No!” The security guard was adamant. He pointed to me, as if to say, “You must surrender your bag to that guy”. Gene looked (up) at the guard. While he was not small, the guard was really big. Gene seemed to size him up, and soon decided not to try him. Instead, he turned toward me. And started toward me. Not walking, not running, but moving rapidly, in a manner reminiscent of a bull. An angry bull.
Gene was getting closer, growing larger in my field of vision. I sensed something bad was going to happen. To me. I’d seen visitors throw their bags at the coat check counter in anger, after being told to check them. But I felt this situation would be worse. I thought Gene was going to through his bag at me. He didn’t seem to recognize me at all; even though I knew him better than anyone in the building. Gene steamed toward me, outsized bag in hand, with blood in his eye.
Immediately, the proverbial wheels in my head began their trademark motion. Yes…. I thought, well, this reminds me of a bull fight. And I am going to be the matador. What would a matador do? Well, he would avoid being gored for one thing! He would deflect the bull’s attention. — But I had no cape. True, but I had my brain, and some acting ability. I needed the words to come to me.
As Gene got within fifty feet of me, I suddenly saw that he was sporting a pristine black t-shirt, fresh out of the package, with the name, “Black Oak Arkansas” emblazoned on its front. I waited until he was about twenty feet away, and I put on the largest smile my mouth could make. I yelled, “Dude! Black Oak Arkansas! My favorite band on Earth!”. Gene yelled, “Dude! They’ve got a website!” He handed me the bag. I said, “Go, Jim Dandy!” I gave him a coat-check ticket, and he floated through the turnstile.
Even though sweat was streaming down my face, and I had apparently bitten off a portion of my tongue, I realized I had just pulled off the best acting job of my life. Hey. It was him or me. And Gene became an EMP volunteer. His son joined the EMP youth choir!
This was 2000. Not everyone and his/her brother/sister had a website. Implausible to some of you kiddies, but true. And no, Gene didn’t fist-bump me. That hadn’t been invented.
The bag-check rule was rescinded.
Had it been 2015, Gene could have come up to me and said, “Dude! They’re in Wikipedia!”
And on that note: You want to read the WHOLE Wikipedia entry don’t you! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Oak_Arkansas
I’d be remiss not to offer my humble thanks to Wikipedia for the essential information they unknowingly provided.
Wanna see ‘em? Wow, are you brave. Click!
Here’s one more image, that just made me want to barf. I left it out of the article. Look away, if you have a weak stomach.