By Ashley Zimmerman
By Dana Krangel
By John Hood
By Ashley Zimmerman
By David Von Bader
By Sayre Berman
By Steve Brennan
By Ashley Zimmerman
The yuppies eat up "Hole Man" and "Shittin' on the Dock of the Bay." Taylor's bassist is laughing so hard he can barely hold his instrument. But the honeymoon is over the second Blowfly breaks into "Rap Dirty." The Blues Society folks shift uneasily in their seats. They didn't come here to hear the hip-hop garbage their kids listen to -- did they? By the time Blowfly is halfway though his "Welcome to Pussy Hell" intro for "Burnin' Pussy" (a parody of the Gap band's "Burn Rubber"), a middle-aged woman stomps up to the stage and yells: "I'm leavin'!"
Blowfly stops and sweetly begs: "Oh, please, miss. Don't leave. I promise not to play 'Burnin' Pussy' if you stay."
"I'm leavin'!" she yells, slamming the door behind her.
"OK, the bitch left," he deadpans. "Let's burn some pussy!" Every woman in the audience files out the door. It's as if they were at a school dance slurping punch only to find a turd at the bottom of the bowl. Blowfly wears a truly evil grin on his face. He has entertained and offended the crowd at the same time -- no mean feat. His mission accomplished, he hops into Chavez's beat-up Honda Civic. Chavez starts the car as the first woman to leave pulls up, rolls down the window, and wags her finger: "Naughty, naughty!"
Reid learned the value of naughty as a young child in the early 1950s. Forced to drop out of school in Vienna, Georgia, at the age of 7 to work in the cotton fields after his grandfather died, Reid began making up dirty songs to the melodies of country hits to pass the picking time. "There was an Ernest Tubb song 'I'm Walking the Floor Over You.' And I'd go: 'I'm jerking my dick over you,'" he recalls. "And the white girls loved it! They loved to be around me. My grandmomma heard me and said, 'I don't know why those little white girls like you! You ain't no better than a nasty ol' blowfly!' I laughed, stood up, and said, 'What the fuck is a blowfly?' She told me that a blowfly is a black, yellow, red, and green insect that lands on dead things, turns 'em into maggots, and screws 'em." Reid's ever-hoarse speaking voice boils over into laughter as a smile explodes across his face. "Yeah, that's me, all right."
Reid honed his talent hitchhiking from Georgia to West Palm Beach as a preteen in the late '50s. "I'd sing to the white people who picked me up, and they'd laugh and say 'Here's some bus fare' and drop me off at the bus station. I'd wait till they left, pocket the money, watch them leave, and get back on the highway." He spent his 13th year washing pots at Morrison's Cafeteria in West Palm Beach, which oddly enough kick-started his music career. "I didn't know I knew harmony." Reid explains. "Everyone in the kitchen would sing in unison. And I'd tell them: 'Something's wrong - try this.' I'd go 'Da De Do.' That's harmony. They were shocked! The manager asked me, 'How do you know that?' I didn't know what to tell him, so he told me to go see Henry Stone down in Miami and tell him that Mr. Hunter sent me."
At age 14, Reid found work at Henry Stone's Tone Distribution in downtown Miami, packing records for shipment in the warehouse. Stone sensed Reid's talent and sent him to Miami's Criteria Studios for seasoning. There developed a band of session players, Clarence Reid and the Delmiras, who released a string of singles in the mid-'60s. When Stone heard a song he particularly liked, he'd cherry-pick it for one of his many imprints. This strategy worked to perfection in 1969, when Reid had a number 7 Billboard R&B hit with "Nobody But You Babe" on his Alston label. Reid quit the warehouse and became a mainstay on the chitlin' circuit, opening for R&B greats James Brown, Johnny Taylor, and Sam & Dave.
With the success of "Nobody But You Babe," Reid began self-pressing Blowfly records on his own label, Clarence Reid Inc. To promote them, he'd drop off records at discos, including Joe Namath's Bachelors III Club in Sunrise. Reid laughs, making reference to the New York Jets quarterback's party boy rep: "I knew Joe from before in New York when I played gay clubs. I told him, 'I guess there's a reason they call you 'Broad.'"
He'd also delight the audience with a dirty parody or two between songs at his "clean" Clarence Reid gigs. "I would go on Rick Shaw's WFUN-AM Saturday record hop Florida Bandstand at Fort Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium," Reid recalls. "Rick would tell me before the show, 'Clarence, I want you to ignore everything I say on the air. I have to tell you not to do the dirty stuff because I'm required to legally. But please, do it anyway.' So I'd do my songs, and then Rick would ask me, 'Clarence, do you know any Beatles?' So I'd sing 'Something in the Way She Smells.' He'd say: 'That's terrible! You should be ashamed of yourself! Do you know any Elvis?' And I'd sing 'I got the claps/I'm all fucked up.'"