Rickie Lee Reynolds, Black Oak Arkansas Guitarist, Dies at 72

by Chris Haney

On Sunday morning, guitarist Rickie Lee Reynolds of the Southern rock band Black Oak Arkansas passed away at the age of 72.

TMZ first reported the sad news earlier today after getting confirmation from Reynolds’ son. The guitarist’s son told the outlet that his famous father died after battling long-term health issues. He passed in a local hospital after losing his fight with the unknown health complication. Rickie Lee Reynolds’ son also said he “hopes the public will hold Ricky’s memory, magic, and memories close to their hearts forever.”

Black Oak Arkansas originally formed in 1963 and is still active as a band almost six decades later. The Southern rock band was unique for its day since they utilized the first-ever three-guitar lineup. Reynolds was a founding member of the band in the ’60s along with five other musicians.

Ronnie Smith (vocals), Harvey Jett (guitar), Stanley Knight (guitar), Pat Daugherty (bass), and Wayne Evans (drums) rounded out the original band. Not long after though, the band’s most famous singer James Mangrum took over vocals for Smith. The lineup with Mangrum singing became the core of the band that shot to success by the 1970s.

In 1970, Rickie Lee Reynolds and the band moved to Los Angeles where they signed their first record deal. The next year, the band released their self-titled debut album. It included BOA classics such as “Hot and Nasty,” “Lord Have Mercy On My Soul,” and “Uncle Lijiah.” Additionally, the album included the track “When Electricity Came To Arkansas,” which became a controversial song. Fundamentalist religious groups accused the group of making music that contained hidden Satanic messages.

Rickie Lee Reynolds and His Band’s Ascent to Stardom

A few years later in 1973, Black Oak had the most successful year of their lengthy career. The band released their fourth and fifth albums in the same year. The albums contained some of their most popular songs to date, including “Hot Rod,” “Up,” and “Gigolo.” That year they also released arguably their biggest hit “Jim Dandy (To the Rescue)” – a remake of LaVern Baker’s 1957 song by the same name.

Guitarist Rickie Lee Reynolds played in the band throughout this high point in their career. Yet in 1976 he left the band before later returning to the group in the 1980s. As the decades passed, different members of the band came and went. But the original members got back together as often as they could.

The band’s music allegedly inspired other iconic rock bands including Van Halen. In addition, numerous legendary musicians toured with Black Oak Arkansas in the 1970s. The band became one of the Top 5 highest-selling rock acts on the road that decade. They headlined arenas across the nation performing on more than 1,000 stages between 1972 and 1976. Legendary acts like Aerosmith, The Eagles, and even Bruce Springsteen opened up for BOA during that time period.

BOA earned three gold albums and sold nearly five million records in the ’70s. Their music led them to fame and fortune as the band members became the largest private landowners in the state of Arkansas. They gave millions of dollars to Arkansas charities. In fact, they even gave then-attorney general Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary their first-ever ride in a limousine.

Rickie Lee Reynolds’ band still plays shows to this day, but they’ll now be without their longtime guitarist in the future. RIP to Reynolds and condolences to his family, friends, bandmates, and fans.