Blowfly Unmasked!

blowfly n. Any of several flies of the family Calliphoridae that deposit their eggs in carcasses or carrion or in open sores and wounds.

The American Heritage Dictionary

After riding a Metrobus from his home just south of Joe Robbie Stadium to the North Miami Beach record company where he works, Clarence Reid, always one to pitch in, volunteers to help unload albums from a distribution truck. A couple of passersby, teen-agers, notice something familiar in the kind, round face of the 50-year-old man, as he hoists stacks of vinyl. Who is this guy?

The teens think they know, and they're a little excited. "You ain't him," says one. "You ain't Blowfly." Reid, playing along, begins singing. "No, you ain't him," the boys smirk. "I don't believe it," says one, all posed cynicism and giggles. "If you're really Blowfly, why are you unloading a truck?"

"Hey," Reid replies, "it's my company's truck. It needs to be done, and somebody's gotta do it." Although he feels no obligation to prove anything, once Reid's on, he's on. He lets loose the trademark booming laugh. Aahhhaooohhhahh!

The boys continue to insist they aren't convinced, until Reid finally extends the long middle finger of his right hand in an unmistakable gesture. "Damn!" the boys exclaim. "You are Blowfly!"

Actually he's not. Not right now. He's Clarence Reid, music-business veteran and million-selling songwriter, as comfortable taking out the trash or off-loading product as he is sitting behind a soundboard in a recording studio or writing funky, soulful tunes. The transformation into Blowfly, the naughty alter ego, is something else, the Clark Kent/Superman metamorphosis gone kinky. It begins with Clarence Reid stripped to his underwear. He tugs on sparkle-gold pants so tight he needs help pulling up the zipper along his hip. Over the pants goes a pair of sparkle-gold shorts. The matching sleeveless, sequined top has a stylized, pink BF insignia on the front. The cape is black on one side, bright green on the other. A tight black mask, which causes the emerging Blowfly's shaggy hair to poke out through the top, is worn underneath a loose mask, sparkle-gold with purple trim, complete with cowl. And then comes the laugh. Aahhhaooohhhahh! And the extended middle finger. And the act.

Typically, Blowfly is joined in performance by a band and by several women - dancers and backup singers - wearing pink, yellow, or green Afro wigs. The star of the show mixes stand-up comedy (for example, how to acquire anatomical information about a woman by listening to her at the rest-room door), singing and rapping of Blowfly party tunes, and graphic bastardizations of hits, such as Kenny Rogers's "Lady," in which the knight in shining armor becomes "your dick in shining rubber." That tune, Blowfly says, is the most frequently requested number in his entire repertoire. "It's X-rated," he says. "But it's sensitive."

Of course raunchy "party" tunes recorded by black artists are nothing new. Since the Twenties groups such as the Mississippi Mud Mashers ("Bring It on Home to Your Grandma"), Bo Carter ("Please Warm My Weiner" and "Let Me Roll Your Lemon"), and the Fred Wolff Combo ("Somebody Else Was Suckin' My Dick Last Night") provided explicit musical humor to appreciative audiences.

"Anybody can rap nasty," Blowfly is fond of saying. "But you have to be funny with it." Reid isn't staking any claim to "first rapper" status; he's happy to share credit with the disc jockeys he heard on Macon, Georgia, stations as a youth and with the black DJs he heard later, after he'd moved to Florida. The radio announcers, he says, were free to ramble, often talking straight through the records they spun. Their fast-paced delivery provided further inspiration, says Blowfly: "Rap is from `talk rapidly.'"

A loyal cult has followed Blowfly's hypergraphic antics for two decades - his extensive output of party albums, now virtually impossible to locate, recorded on South Florida's TK label, and his more recent efforts for locally based Pandisc. Though radio, music television, and the mainstream press are pretty much off-limits to the nicely nasty showman, his fans have an insatiable appetite for his recordings.

With more than 40 albums to his credit, Blowfly might be the most influential musical figure never to be listed in a reference book. Apparently the encyclopedists consider it irrelevant that Clarence Reid wrote songs key to the careers of Sam and Dave, Betty Wright, and KC and the Sunshine Band, among others. The historians find it appropriate to overlook Blowfly's contributions to the birth of explicit rap. "My strength was always songwriting," says Reid. "And I brought the little girl, Betty Wright, in 1967 or '68. I did The Weird World of Blowfly around then, but there was nothing big on Blowfly. Then `Doing My Thing with Nobody But You' was distributed by Atlantic [Records]. Still nothing on Blowfly...."

Writing down the songs he made up was a difficult process - Reid couldn't write. "Since I couldn't go to school," he says, "I had to memorize my songs." To this day, when mentioning one of the hundreds of ditties he's cerebrally spawned, Reid recites a few verses from memory. Interviews are broken by snippets of song delivered on cue and on key; a lengthy photo session in a Miami Beach studio turned into an impromptu Blowfly solo concert. He's a human jukebox, and though he eventually was able to absorb some fundamentals of primary formal education, he says, "I'm probably not on a high-school level, but I can hold my own." Regardless of diplomas, Reid's brain should be registered with BMI and ASCAP.

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