Warning: If you are easily offended by profanity and graphic descriptions of adult sexual situations, then its best you skip this feature entirely. Neither the subject nor the subject matter will be to your liking.
However, if the notion of a 60-year-old man dressing up in a glittery mask and cape to sing ribald and at times filthily perverse R&B songs gives you cause to titter, then you are prepared to enter The Weird World Of Blowfly.
Before one can truly appreciate the impact the legendary and almost mythical character of Blowfly has made todays popular music (and the evolution of rap and hip-hop in particular), one must first understand from whence he came.
Born Clarence Reid in the small rural town of Cochran, Ga., in 1945, Blowfly was the eldest of 18 children. His mother and he soon moved to Vienna, Ga., about an hours drive from Macon.
Before he was 10, the death of his grandfather forced him to be taken out of school, and he was made to work in the cotton fields six days a week starting at 5 a.m. to provide for his family.
The kids today, white and black, think they got it hard. They dont know what hard is, says the characteristically blunt performer. Hard is when youre seven years old and you quit school to plow a fuckin mule. Youre part nigga, part German, and part Sioux Indian, and your momma collects all your money!
To help put these developments in perspective, this was during a time when blacks in this part of the country were routinely harassed and assaulted by racist whites many of whom proudly belonged to the Ku Klux Klan. Id see the KKK out in the woods when I was lookin for rabbits to play with, Reid recalls.
He claims he developed his trademark approach to dirtying-up parodies of popular songs both as a way to keep these bossmen-types amused and off his case and as a mischievous revenge on his grandmother for forcing him into such grueling servitude against his will.
He would eventually parlay this juvenile hobby into a successful career that would earn him a dubious sort of international notoriety, but back then, he was happy to just get a laugh and a bit of attention on his too-short lunch breaks.
Oh, them white girls loved it, he recalls. They loved to be around me. But my grandmama heard me doin all this stuff and she said (adopts high-pitched feminine voice), I dont know why all those little white girls like you! Youre a disgrace to the black race. You aint no better than a nasty ol blowfly!
When Clarence inquired as to just what that meant, his grandmother told him blowflies are little black, yellow, orange and green insects that land on dead things and lay eggs. They turn em into maggots, and then screw em.
Satisfied with that perhaps less than scientifically accurate explanation, he says he decided then and there that he was proud to be called a blowfly. Later in
life, he concluded (again subject to educated debate) that Without blowflies, the world wouldve ended when the dinosaurs died. But the flies came and ate up all the germs and evolution continued.
It would be years before his twin predilections for scatological humor and songwriting would converge and help to create an icon of both funk and filth, but even at that early age, he was on a path he would follow for the rest of his life.
His ability to charm white folks with his childish, X-rated sendups of radio hits soon began to pay off. Hitchhiking often as a pre-teen from Vienna to West Palm Beach, Fl., hed sing to the people whod give him rides, and theyd often drop him at the bus station with a generous handful of cash for the fare. Hed pocket the dough and keep on hitching.
By 13, he was washing dishes in a Morrisons Cafeteria in that resort city when the manager noticed him singing harmony. Struck by his musical ability, the boss recommended Reid to a friend in Miami for possible work. That friend turned out to be none other than Henry Stone, aka The Dick Clark of Florida.
Stones Tone Distribution handled manufacture and sales for several independent record labels, and although Reid was initially hired to pack boxes of singles and albums in Tones warehouse, his new employer soon picked up on his raw musical talent and offbeat sensibility and moved him out of the warehouse and into Miamis famed Criteria Studios. There Reid was teamed with some of the citys top session players, and under the name Clarence Reid & The Delmiras, they would proceed to record and release a string of soul singles in the mid-60s.
When one of those finally took off (1969s Nobody but You Babe) and made it to Number 7 on Billboards R & B Charts, Reid hit the road with a vengeance, and toured relentlessly as the opening act for such stars as James Brown, Sam & Dave, and Johnny Taylor.
He also befriended many of the top soul singers of the time, such as Solomon Burke, and Otis Redding (a connection that served him well when Reddings widow was persuaded by this not to sue Blowfly for spoofing her late husbands signature tune with his own Shitting Off The Dock Of The Bay).
He also claims to have helped write the timeless garage band nugget 96 Tears, without proper credit.
More hits would follow in the early 70s most penned by Reid but cut by others such as Betty Wrights million-selling Clean Up Woman, and Gwen McCraes Rockin Chair.
These tunes helped to define the so-called Miami Sound, a key precursor to the disco craze. Its the ongoing royalties from these tracks and those he wrote for and with mega-stars KC & The Sunshine Band that have helped keep Reid afloat (and betting on his beloved Jai-Alai) during his slower years.
But its his alter-ego Blowfly that has brought Reid his most enduring and widespread recognition even if most of his fans have no idea who Blowfly really is.
Commonly regarded by those in the know as perhaps the first real rapper, Reids 1970 Blowfly track Rapp Dirty was deemed too far out to be released at the time, but once the Sugarhill Gang hit it big in 1979 with Rappers Delight, TK Records rushed out the almost decade-old track to much underground acclaim. However, even if that was the first that most white people knew of Blowflys risqué repertoire, many in the black community had been hip to him for years.
Under that pseudonym, Reid had been recording boastful, foul-mouthed, unsuitable-for-radio ditties in his words before the Sugarhill Gang even knew what condoms were! Starting with 1973s Weird World Of Blowfly, hed been pressing the LPs on his own and selling them at gigs and under-the-counter through a loose network of nightclubs and record stores. Along with such X-rated comedians as Rudy Ray Dolemite Moore, Redd Foxx, LaWanda Page and Wildman Steve, his party records were on the cutting edge of African-American humor and music and as such, treasured items among a certain breed of enlightened hipsters.
His live shows were the stuff of legend as well. Playing everywhere from juke joints and private parties to major music venues and small theaters, his fame was the sort that can only be generated by word-of-mouth as virtually no media outlets would touch his off-color act (and recorded output) with a 10-foot, well, you know. Pole.
Yet, by the mid-80s, while he still recorded and played occasional shows when the money was right (sometimes backed by fawning members of Fishbone and The Red Hot Chili Peppers), he was either unable or unwilling to keep a band together, and the Pandisc label which bankrolled his releases from 83 to 99 insisted that he sing to canned music or sequenced tracks to cut touring costs something Reid abhorred.
Furthermore, by the end of the last decade, the sheer scope and ubiquity of the foul language and shocking sentiments expressed in most mainstream rap lyrics made Blowflys over-the-top sex-crazed humor and ludicrous cape-and-mask stage getup seem more silly than shocking as it once was.
Luther Campbell of the infamous X-rated rap act 2 Live Crew once famously said of Blowfly, Without (him), thered be no Luther Campbell. And thats truer than one might imagine.
In fact, over a decade before the constitutional censorship debate spurred by the branding of 2 Live Crews As Nasty As They Wanna Be LP as legally obscene, Blowflys Porno Freak became the first record in the U.S. to ever be banned for lyrical content!
With all this talk of filth and perversion, its almost bizarre that despite his fouler-than-foul lyrics and his direct connection with the notoriously coked-out disco scene of the late 70s, Reid/Blowfly is a devout Christian who can quote scripture as fast as he can rattle off freestyle raps. He swears he has avoided smoking, drinking and drugs his whole life and acquaintances support this claim.
I may go to hell, laughs Blowfly, but it wont be for those things!
Although in the past few years, his early material has been sampled heavily, and used by many major rap and hip-hop groups, such as The Jurassic 5, Ice Cube, Atmosphere and The Artist Formerly Known As Puff Daddy he has only recently resolved to jumpstart his own career as a performing artist.
Coaxed out of semi-retirement by music journalist and drummer Tom Bowker (who formed a road band specifically to back Reid after convincing Blowfly to play his bachelor party), Reid is now reclaiming his rightful place in hip-hop history. He and his band have a new album out on Jello Biafras respected Alternative Tentacles label (Farenheit 69). This tongue-in-cheek Blowfly For President concept CD was set for release during the last election, but legal hassles kept it under wraps until now.
It finds Blowfly singing with a full rock and funk band for the first time in years and along with parodies of recent R & B hits and his trademark humorous between-song skits, it features guest appearances by electroclash outfit Gravy Train!!!! and rapper Afroman. Reid also has a punk rock LP in the works which should be released later in the year.
I spoke to the man by phone from his home in Miami for well over an hour, but much of his side of the conversation was hard to discern, due to Reids deep drawl and rapid-fire delivery. Heres a bit of our no-holds-barred rap session.
Connect Savannah: Are you looking forward to this show at The Jinx?
Blowfly: Oh yeah! My niece Tonya just moved up there. Im gonna tell my sister to bring her ass to the show, and if she dont wear no panties she can get in free. (Laughs) I used to play there with Wildman Steve and Redd Foxx. I told my girl, Redds eatin too much sugar. She said, Blowfly, for the worlds baddest nigga, you sure is innocent. I said, oh shit thats cocaine!
Connect Savannah: Whats some of the first funny stuff you remember doing?
Blowfly: I was about eight and I liked to get into peoples minds and fuck with em. Some white folks took me to see Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys. They knew I was bad, so when I met Bob Wills they said Tell him what his real name is. So I said, In your former life, you was a female and your name was Jill. So its really Bob Jill and The Texas Gayboys, and they all hit the floor!
Connect Savannah: Lookin at your costume, what is your superpower?
Blowfly: To make people laugh when theyre viciously pissed off.
Connect Savannah: Do you ever get any props from a lot of todays rappers?
Blowfly: Some of em say theyre sorry I dont get credit in any of the books on hip-hop, and I tell em to stick it up their ass. It dont bother me, cause I know what I did. How come they sample me, and I dont sample them? I just played L.A., and Snoop Dogg and Dr. Gay and all them superstars showed up, but they sat up in the V.I.P. section where the fans cant see em. I told em to come down by the stage. They said later I was cold to do that. (Laughs) I said cold is when you sit up there and act like youre better than your fans! You wouldnt be there if it werent for ordinary folks.
Connect Savannah: What kind of response are you getting on tour?
Blowfly: Some other acts are jealous of me, because Im kickin ass. See, if punk rockers go see rap, they clap, but they really like punk and vice versa. Same with comedy. But when I come out, I rap, sing, do standup. Plus, Im nasty!
Connect Savannah: I know youve been gigging some with Rudy Ray Moore. Have you guys ever had a mic battle?
Blowfly: I gotta million ways of goin off on his ass. He tried it once and when I let loose he just backed off. Im a virus like computer spam, I said, Rudy, just ask mother nature everybody hates ya.
Connect Savannah: Gimme your impressions of some folks that might be in the next presidential race. Ready? Jeb Bush.
Blowfly: Dysentarian, bone-buryin, tick-hatchin, flea-scratchin. Next one.