April 21, 2016

Clarence "Blowfly" Reid: Where It All Began

Clarence "Blowfly" Reid

Publisher’s note: I remember well during the mid to late 1980’s, as I began to work within the Miami music scene, I met many musicians who had enjoyed success. As I introduced myself, several would always ask if I was related to Clarence Reid. Easy assumption because we both shared the same last name, and we both were working in music. By that time though, Clarence “Blowfly” Reid had achieved legendary status not only in Miami but all around the world. He would easily be labeled a trail blazer for the new batch of X-rated rappers soon to burst upon the scene. We lost Blowfly earlier this year in death, but he will never be forgotten. I thought it was time to pay tribute to one of the most influential musicians from the state of Florida. For those of you who know little about “Blowfly”, take this opportunity to read his bio below.

Edward Reid

Before there was Kool Keith, Old Dirty Bastard or 2 Live Crew - before there was hip hop, for that matter - there was Blowfly, performing X-rated songs with a funky groove. Born 60 years ago in Cochran, Georgia, Miami's Clarence Reid has recorded more than 40 albums during his illustrious career. He got his nickname as a child when his grandmother, after hearing him sing dirty versions of then popular songs - like "Suck My D**k" for "Do The Twist" - proclaimed, "You is nastier than a blowfly."

In reality, there's a split personality involved in this man's music: there's Blowfly, the outrageously garbed creator of trash classics such as "Shittin' on the Dock of the Bay" and "Porno Freak," and then there's Clarence Reid, who has recorded more than a dozen "clean" albums over the years and penned songs for the likes of K.C. and the Sunshine Band, Gwen McRae, Betty Wright, and Sam and Dave. Many people cite Blowfly as being the first rapper with his 1965 "Rap Dirty" record, which was re-recorded for disco giants T.K. Records after the smash success of Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." Blowfly himself credits the "soul talking" Southern radio DJs of the '50s and '60s as the pioneers of rap, but he is without dispute the first rapper to have a song banned, after an Alabama record store was busted for peddling "Porno Freak." Blowfly was also sued by the President of ASCAP for his "What a Difference a Lay Makes." (The music publishing honcho also happened to be the composer of the popular "What a Difference a Day Makes.") Blowfly's sounds are a staple of modern-day hip hop. His music has been sampled by many rappers, including The Jurassic 5, (whose hit "Quality Control" is backed by the outro from Weird World Of Blowfly) Ice Cube, Atmosphere and Puff Daddy.

In 1991, Blowfly hooked up with Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist/wild man Flea to record "Shake Your Thang" (clean) b/w "Shake Your Ass" (X-rated), both of which are included on the soundtrack of Blow's legendary film, The Twisted World of Blowfly. The resulting relationship led to a series of shows with Flea and the Fishbone at Club Lingerie in Hollywood, Ca and multiple "Nuttstalk" tours with Fishbone over the next decade. In 2003, Blowfly was interviewed by Miami-based journalist/drummer Tom Bowker for a cover story in the Broward-Palm Beach New Times. When asked why he hadn't played a Miami area gig in 20 years, he replied "I don't have a band down here." To which Bowker replied "Want one?" Two months later, Blowfly's new band played Bowker's bachelor party and never looked back. In 2004, Bowker and his fellow bandmates -- keyboard player Mr. Lock (ex-everything for the Otis Redding progeny funk combo The Reddings), guitarist Chris Chavez and bassist Jon-Jon (now replaced by Rob Sherber) -- teamed up to record Fahrenheit 69, Blowfly's first album dedicated to new, original material since 1988's Blowfly for President. When word got out that Blowfly was recording a new record, guest artists lined up to get in on the freaky fun, including: Afroman (of "Because I Got High" fame) Slug (MC for Epitaph/Rhymesayers rap sensations Atmosphere), and Bay Area Electroclash freaks Gravy Train!!!! (Kill Rock Stars). After more having more flirtations than a Hollywood Starlet, Fahrenheit 69 was picked up by longtime fan and punk icon Jello Biafra and released to rave reviews on his Alternative Tentacles label in June 2005.

Since then, Blowfly has toured coast to coast in the US on his first headlining tour in decades, blowing the roof off of clubs and landing on festival bills with the likes of Har Mar Superstar, The Ravonettes, Dash Rip Rock, Rudy Ray Moore, Link Wray, Yo La Tengo, Kool Keith, Fatlip and RJD2 among others.

Over the years, Blowfly's seen a lot of his contemporaries fall by the way side. His survival can partially be credited to the fact that while Blowfly is totally whacked in the head, Reid is a God-fearing, Bible-carrying Christian. "I never drink, never smoke, and I never use drugs," confesses Reid. "I may go to hell, but it won't be for those things!"