Blowfly's dick can still fly
Occupying the metaphysical space somewhere between a 50 cent vinyl copy of Red Foxx’s You Gotta Wash Your Ass and the porno mags you used to steal from under your dad’s bed, there’s Blowfly. The Original Dirty Rapper first starting releasing “party records”—featuring deliciously obscene retreads of contemporary hits like “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head” (“My Baby Keeps Farting in My Face”)—way back in 1973 with his Weird World of Blowfly album. In the 2010 documentary of the same name, Blowfly’s drummer-manager Tom Bowker is seen arguing that Blowfly is responsible, in the 40 years since, “for two-thirds of today’s popular music.”
Sounds a little hyperbolic? In the same movie, Chuck D announces that without Blowfly’s 1980 single “Rapp Dirty”, there’d be no “Fight the Power.” He’s been sampled to hell and back by the likes of Jurassic 5, Beyoncé, and the Wu-Tang Clan. As the decidedly un-dirty, Miami-based soul man Clarence Reid—Blowfly is Reid’s all-out and balls-out alter ego—he wrote hits for KC and the Sunshine Band, Gwen McCrae and Betty Wright. Head over to YouTube-land, and there’s the septuagenarian performer, decked out as ever in his shit-ass Lycra superhero get-up, duetting with Snoop on “I Believe My Dick Can Fly”.
“Which is one of the better songs he’s ever done,” says Bowker, with a laugh, calling the Straight from Gainesville, Florida. “And Snoop Dogg sang that to me on his bus, so that was amazing.” A white punk from Little Rock, Arkansas, and thirty years his junior, Bowker hooked up with Blowfly after interviewing him for a Florida newspaper in 2003, eagerly providing a four-piece band and some welcome life support. A year later, Blowfly was working with Bowker on Fahrenheit 69, his first record for six years. In October, they unleashed Black in the Sack, which included their reimagining of Michael Jackson’s “Ben”. This time around, Ben—a gay rat, apparently—accidentally bites Obama’s dick off. One wonders how, why, or if this strange partnership makes any sense.
“Here’s the thing,” explains the gregarious drummer. “I’ve always been a fan of high and low culture, and Clarence is both, and I’ve always dug that. And this year, we’re pulling some high and low culture shit that’s never been done before.” It’s true. By the time 2013 is over, Blowfly will have performances at both the Gathering of the Juggalos and New York’s Museum of Modern Art under his superhero belt. “Which is insane,” summarizes Bowker.
A little more candidly, Bowker traces his interest in Blowfly back to his school days, “on the bus, every day, hearing the songs I play now,” he says. “'Rapp Dirty’? I heard that every day, so I kinda have this Greek mythological curse on me, because my first 45 that I bought was ‘Shake Your Booty’ by KC and the Sunshine Band, on T.K. Records. Clarence was the staff songwriter for T.K. Records, he discovered KC and the Sunshine Band, so there’s definitely some sort of Illuminati hand that steered me towards this. That music was ingrained into me when I was nine, 10-years-old; the same music that I play now.”
Beyond that, “Blowfly is really a punk rock thing” he continues. “And I never understood that as much until we did a benefit for Gwen McCrae.” Taking place at BB King’s Blues Club in West Palm Beach last autumn, Reid found himself in the company of old collaborators like Jimmy "Bo" Horne, George McCrae and Betty Wright. He’d authored hits for all of them, especially Wright. “Betty wouldn’t even say hello to Clarence, which blew my fuckin’ mind, man,” says Bowker. “We kept getting bumped to later and later and later. It was like a really bad high school talent show for people with gold records… So we got onstage and we played ‘Funky Party’, which is a Clarence Reid song, and then we went right into ‘To Fuck the Boss’, which is about as dirty as you can get. And we got yanked 90 seconds into it.” Plus, he says, “they cut off his mike when he was trying to say something nice about Gwen.”
For a little perspective, it was Reid who wrote Gwen McRae’s biggest hit, the stone classic, “Rockin’ Chair.” C’est la vie. At least Bowker reports that his friend got a kick out of ruffling all those “churchy black folks.” “It’s hard to be subversive these days,” he says. “It’s all been done. But Clarence is subversive just by taking a breath of air.”