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PAPER TRAILS: Procession a send-off for rocker

by Sean Clancy | October 24, 2021 at 4:06 a.m.

Events celebrating the life of Arkansas rocker Rickie Lee Reynolds will start at noon in Memphis and proceed to Black Oak later today.

Reynolds, co-founder and guitarist of rock band Black Oak Arkansas, died last month after being hospitalized with covid-19 and suffering two heart attacks. He was 72.

The public is invited to meet this morning at 11:45 at the intersection of Beale and Fourth streets in Memphis for a "homegoing procession" for Reynolds down Beale.

"We're going to do a traditional musicians' send-off for him in Memphis," says Reynolds' stepson, Christopher Lee Crowther, who is helping organize the event. "We'll procession down Beale Street. If anyone would like to participate, they can be part of it. We're looking for drummers and horn players also to join in."

A Facebook post about the event asks for friends and fans to wear their Black Oak Arkansas gear and follow covid-19 safety precautions.

The Memphis Blues Society, the city of Memphis and Beale Street Management will assist in the event, Crowther says. Piper Mangrum, daughter of Black Oak Arkansas frontman James "Jim Dandy" Mangrum, also helped with organization.

From Memphis, the festivities move about 45 minutes across the Mississippi River to Black Oak, where a black oak tree will be planted at the city park on Main Street in honor of Reynolds.

"It'll be a nice little space to sit and remember him," Crowther says.

He recalls Reynolds as someone who "just had a certain way about him. He could turn ordinary circumstances into something magical and special."

Reynolds was born in Manila in Mississippi County and moved to California with his family. They returned to Arkansas when he was in the 10th grade. Reynolds and Black Oak native Mangrum started playing together in 1964.

"Their collaboration and friendship has been an amazing thing," Crowther says.

The two formed the band Knowbody Else in 1965, later changing their name to Black Oak Arkansas, according to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas. They released 10 albums in the 1970s and had a Top 40 hit with a cover of LaVern Baker's "Jim Dandy."

The group's high-energy shows and proto Southern boogie rock proved influential to bands like Van Halen and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Reynolds left the band in the '80s, but later rejoined, and Black Oak continued to tour, becoming particularly popular among the motorcycle crowd.

Crowther, 39, was a teenager when he started helping Reynolds with his gear at shows.

"That's where I learned about lighting and sound and how to be a brother out on the road," he says.

As for today's celebration, he says: "We're just setting everything up to give people an opportunity to honor him and say goodbye."


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