Blowfly's Save the Funky House Party: "Take Care of Our Local Legend"
Photo by John Sevigny
Blowfly is so old that hieroglyphics on Egyptian pyramids show him and Cleopatra having oral sex. Legend has it that's where he wrote the lyrics to his classic "Girl Let Me Cum in Your Mouth."
Both Snoop Dogg and the RZA have cited his profound influence on the world of music. And Canada's cult media personality Nardwuar is another massive fan.
For those who don't know the history: Blowfly's alter ego, Clarence Reid, is a soul, funk, and R&B pioneer who started his career with Deep City, Florida's first black-owned record label.
Photo by Heidi Calvert
Later, he co-wrote hits like "Rockin' Chair" for Gwen McCrae, and "Cleanup Woman" for Betty Wright, both released through Hialeah's globally distributed TK Records.
That company's boss, Henry Stone, passed away this past August at 93 years old. In the months before he died, Stone recalled how Clarence joined his organization: "I had Tone, my big distributing company. I distributed Deep City, sold a few records, and then they folded. Clarence came around one day and said, 'I'd like to hang out,' and he ended up working in the warehouse for a while.
"What happened is," Stone remembered, laughing, "I saw him stealing some records. And I said, 'You motherfucker, I'm gonna kill ya, man.' Then I said, 'But, I think you know how to write songs. So you come back and you work for me and you work it off.'
"I said, 'How many records did you take?' He said, 'I dont know, maybe 50.' I said, 'I'm gonna make you work the motherfucker off,' and then he did."
TK was a hotbed of local talent, with a humble eight-track studio above an office in a Hialeah warehouse. And Stone was always looking for people who could produce record sales.
As the boss recalled: "I used to have a little piano in front of my office. Clarence was sitting there playing Otis Redding's 'Sittin' by the Dock of the Bay,' but when it's time for the lyrics, he starts singing, 'Shittin' on the dock of the bay.' So I said, 'Clarence go up there and put that on tape immediately, come up with some more ideas, man, and cut songs.' And that's when Blowfly came into existence."
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Today, Blowfly has recorded over 20 albums, and he has over 40 total credits as Clarence Reid, all of which have added up to tens of millions in record sales.
During tough times, he sold off many of his most valuable songwriting credits in an unfair cash deal that was far below market value. His songs used to provide him with revenue through quarterly royalty checks. Now 75, he receives Social Security and Medicaid, but he's still recording and touring, just to pay the bills.
For the past 12 years, he's worked with drummer and manager Tom Bowker on "about 450 shows on four continents, and making four albums, and one movie."
However, musical genius does not a great businessman make.
On the band's first day of this year's tour, Blowfly announced that the tax collector was going to take his house if he didn't come up with about $10,000 in outstanding debt payments.
A crowdfunding campaign was hastily arranged by Bowker on a laptop in the back of a car on the way to the airport. The money was raised within a month, and Blowfly will not lose his humble Miami Gardens abode.
Now Bowker wants to establish a trust to ensure that Blowfly will continue to be provided for, indefinitely.
As the manager says: "We can take care of our local legend, so he can live out his days in comfort, and not always be scratching for the next meal."
Crossfade's Top Blogs
Blowfly's Save the Funky House Party. With Kool Keith, Otto von Schirach, and others. Presented by Strutter USA and Alternative MIA. Saturday, November 8. Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami. The show starts at 9 p.m. and tickets cost $15 plus fees via brownpapertickets.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-757-1807 or visit churchillspub.com.
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