By Michael E. Miller
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By Luther Campbell
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Bo Crane moved to South Florida in 1969 to study at the University of Miami, and he also took a job at WEDR-FM. When the station changed formats, every DJ was fired except Crane, who ended up as morning man and music director. (The disco era would be good to Crane, whose record report - a tip sheet listing hot releases - was the South Florida bible as far as spotting hit songs.) Among the tunes he programmed were several from a Miami label called TK. Getting airplay is perhaps the most essential aspect in the success of a record company, and Henry Stone had always displayed an amazing knack for getting his releases played on radio stations across the nation. Still, Stone was stunned by how much TK material made it to Bo Crane's show. "He sent word," Crane recalls. "He said, `Bring me Bo Crane.'"
Although he was never an employee, Crane spent a lot of time at TK, and he came to know the songwriters there, including Clarence Reid. It was only natural that Crane - who had taken his master's degree in theory composition and started on his Ph.D. - move into independent promotion, a controversial field in which record companies hire private individuals to solicit airplay for their records. "I left school because rock and roll called," he quips. In the early Eighties, Crane took the next step, forming his own record company, Pandisc.
A local representative of Warner Bros. recommended Reid to Crane. "I knew Clarence - it wasn't like we had to be introduced," Crane says. "I went to a studio where he was cutting a song called `Business Deal,' which was a pro-women's rights song backed with a dirty side. I told him, `C'mon, don't just put out a single. Let's do an album.' That was Fresh Juice, and, if I do say so, it's become a classic."
Reid - who is signed to Pandisc as an artist but isn't paid to work at the company's North Miami Beach headquarters - credits Crane with snatching him from the jaws of despair, perhaps even poverty. (Reid says royalties from his hits would continue to provide some income, were it not for the fact that the IRS has staked a claim to a tax debt.) Crane is reluctant to accept the mantle of savior. "Look, he's been a personal friend for twenty years. When TK fell apart, people like Clarence had done nothing but make records their whole lives, and he had precious little skills outside of that. So he was kind of orphaned. But he's a talented guy, and I was lucky to have signed him."
Pandisc has released a half-dozen Blowfly albums on the OOPS custom label (the name comes from a nickname given Reid by a TK engineer), and Crane says they've all been "moneymakers," if not chartbusters. "They don't go gold," Crane says, "and none of them have been as big as some he did for TK. But he has a loyal following, a real cult. Word gets around when you put out a release, and it gets sold. Our main interest here is to get a song on the radio, and get it on there as soon as possible. Since he doesn't get radio play, we rely on word of mouth and underground disco play and hope the freaks come out at night and go to the record stores. It's amazing how loyal his fans are."
Crane restricts Blowfly releases to one per year, because, he says, "That's all the market can bear." He's not making a marketing statement, he's joking, standard practice with regards to Blowfly. For the "Shake Your Ass!" twelve-inch, Crane bowed to retailers and incorporated the industry-approved Parental Advisory Explicit Lyrics sticker, although all Blowfly album covers make clear that they are "XXX-rated." (In an April interview with Billboard, Crane explained his decision to use the standard sticker: "We'll do anything for a buck.") An additional sticker was placed on the record jacket: "Warning! This recording contains material which almost everyone finds objectionable and/or obscene. If your sensibilities or any other part of your anatomy are easily disturbed, then this recording is definitely not suitable for you. Additional disclaimer: Do not play this thang for your wife, girlfriend, mother, sister, daughter, niece, aunt, grandmother, female cousins, etc. If you do so, it will be at your own risk!"
"You better not print this," says Jimmy Maslon, one of Blowfly's biggest fans. "I know all the stuff he's done for Bo's label, but the truth is I like Blowfly's party records, his early-Seventies stuff. A lot of people missed out on that." Maslon, who lives in Los Angeles, has been listening to Blowfly records since he was sixteen years old. Three years ago he was overcome with an urge to see a Blowfly concert, and he soon got his wish.
After tracking down the original rapper in Miami, Maslon hooked up with Brendan Mullen, who books talent for Club Lingerie in Hollywood, California. The venue proved fortuitous because Maslon and Mullen were able to recruit members of the club's old house band, who used to perform there when the place was known as the Soul'd Out. They were also able to enlist a member of Red Hot Chili Peppers, a highly regarded neofunk outfit that had appeared there early in their career. A member of Fishbone, another punk/funk outfit responsible for the revitalization of the genre, also joined in, and Blowfly ended up with an all-star backing group.