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VISITING ACT ‌ The Abraxas of Porno-Comedy

Clarence Reid and the evolution of Blowfly

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Clarence "Blowfly" Reid knows how to properly chill out and shake a thang
  • Clarence "Blowfly" Reid knows how to properly chill out and shake a thang
Blowfly
w/ White Boy Crazy
Sat. Jan. 21
9 p.m.
$10 ($8 adv.)
Village Tavern
1055 Johnnie Dodds Blvd.
884-6311
www.village-tavern.com

When an animal carcass appears, the blowfly is usually the first creature to claim it. Blowflies also pollinate the paw-paw, a process gardeners hasten by leaving rotting meat in the plant's proximity. Some blowflies retain larval characteristics into maturity, a phenomenon called neoteny. Some say that if the blowfly did not exist, humanity would be laid low by bacteria.

As a child in the 1940s and '50s, musician and comedian Clarence Reid, oldest of 18 siblings, quit school to work the familial cotton fields in otherwise unremarkable Cochran, Ga. To ease the grind, he composed scatological worksongs, which he eventually performed for his contemporaries. He never got much encouragement from his grandmother — by all accounts, she once said young Clarence was "no better than a blowfly." Thus, she unwittingly christened her grandson's rapping persona.

Blowfly scholars differ on the particulars, but at some point in his teens, Reid fled Cochran for Miami, which he still calls home. As he washed dishes for a living, he sang along with the juke and goofed on the lyrics. His affinity for R&B and his knack for improv eventually landed him a job at TK Records, where he composed songs for Betty White ("Clean Up Woman"), Gwen McCrae ("Rockin' Chair"), and KC & The Sunshine Band ("Sound Your Funky Horn"). Reid also recorded as a solo artist and with the group The Del Mines.

He made hits. He made connections. As things got good, he released dozens of notorious "party records" employing his alterego Blowfly (a masked, gold-suited mix of Gorgeous George and George Clinton) and his established parody formula (a mix of Al Yankovic and Al Goldstein). 1971's Weird World Of Blowfly solidified the template. 1977's Porno Freak garnered legal action and was banned from sale in some quarters. Songwriter Stanley Adams, the man behind the gentle smash "What A Difference A Day Makes," sued Reid for recording "What A Difference A Lay Makes." (At the time, Adams also happened to helm ASCAP.) In 1978, Blowfly dropped Zodiac Blowfly, his most focused work.

In 2000-or-so BC, Babylonians created the zodiac as a calendar. Every so often, you'll encounter people who believe that the position of heavenly bodies as they relate to the latitude, longitude, and time of their births will elucidate their quirks and their lots. These people adhere to a zodiac-based belief system called astrology. However easily and widely debunked, astrology retains its appeal. It posits a complex understanding of humans beyond the constraining binary of good and evil. And it tells us much about sex.

Between repetitions of its reductionist refrain, Zodiac Blowfly runs through the sun signs, assigning each its respective perversion. To hear Blowfly tell it, whether you're a Gemini, a Libra, an Aries or a Capricorn, trust that you're, in one way or another, a nasty mother. "(Your sign) might sing a song like this ..." Cut to a filthy, childish rewrite of a soul hit, an awkward, hilarious liaison of the sacred and profane.

Clarence Reid is a Christian extremist. The more his imagination leads him into the skank, the more he seeks to season his soul. "Every time I cussed out a white person," Reid says in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News's Jim Beal Jr., "I would learn a Bible verse. I got to where I could challenge the preachers." Reid believes that much of modern Christianity misinterprets and ignores the Bible. He defends Blowfly against all charges.

Together with Rudy Ray "Dolemite" Moore, Blowfly created rap music as we know it. The two are similar in talents and tastes, but differently inspired. Moore's act is steeped in the "toast" tradition (traced to Africa) and the discipline of Vegas showmanship. Standup legend Sam Kinison copped elements of his act from Moore. Blowfly's appeal, on the other hand, lies in his seeming spontaneity, his mastery of goofy shock. It works because, like a kid, he's always in the zone.

Years after Zodiac Blowfly, Moore recorded his own zodiac-themed album. In 2005, years after Moore's Dolemite For President, Blowfly released Fahrenheit 69 (Alternative Tentacles), featuring the track "Blowfly For President." On his guest verse, rapper Afroman bites a Sam Kinison joke about drunk driving.

Let the spinnin' wheel spin.

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