Posted: 09/21/2011

 

The Weird World of Blowfly

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen




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A new documentary, The Weird World of Blowfly, which ends its New York premiere on September 22 and is being released in theaters in Los Angeles September 23, tells the story of Miami musician Clarence Reid. Many people may know Clarence Reid by his given name, but thousands more know him by his “alter-ego,” Blowfly, the name under which he performed well after he had achieved untold fame on the Soul and R&B scene by writing hits for Sam & Dave, Betty Wright, Gwen McCrae and KC and the Sunshine Band.

If you’ve ever heard Rockin’ Chair, Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do or are familiar with the “Miami Sound,” then you know the great work of Reid. But as Blowfly, as in The Weird World of Blowfly, which was released in 1971, songs such as What A Difference a Lay Makes, My Baby Keeps Fartin’ in My Face and Shittin’ Off the Dock of the Bay show Blowfly making fun of hits of the time in what were then considered “racy” records, which had to be sold under the table. After Blowfly was sued by the then-president of ASCAP, Blowfly decided to write his own original “X”-rated music.

The documentary covers two years in Blowfly’s life when he toured with Tom Bowker, a Miami freelance music journalist and former concert promoter. He talked up conversations with Blowfly, and they both agreed to strike out on a new tour. They traveled as far away as Germany, and most audiences admired and appreciated Blowfly’s music.
Blowfly can be ornery and as mean as any grandfather, while on the tour, but I give it to him, the man knows his craft, and at the age of at least 70, he really doesn’t have time to fool around.

Blowfly works in a gold-spangled superhero costume and beckons for audiences to get “nasty” with him and whatever scantily-clad woman he has dancing with him at the time.
I sort of felt for Blowfly, seeing that he was still performing after all these years and learning that at some point he sold off the rights to his masters, because he needed immediate money and couldn’t wait for residuals to come trickling in. Afterward, he was broke and didn’t make much money, so the documentary tour could be viewed as a comeback.

In the hotel rooms, while relaxing, you can tell that his knees are giving him a hard time, and he and Bowker have cross words many times, because they don’t agree on every aspect of the performance.

It’s even sadder to see his adult son and daughter discuss issues regarding growing up without their father, but knowing that he was out there performing and giving joy to others.
The Weird World of Blowfly examines Reid’s personal and professional contradictions, explores his legacy and celebrates his musical and cultural significance as a rap and soul music legend, with Ice T and other renowned rappers chiming in on Blowfly’s stature as being the first rap artist.

The Weird World of Blowfly is a good documentary and worth seeing. Even if you aren’t comfortable with the coarse, raw, obscene lyrics, it’s worth looking into hip hop history and literally seeing who could very well be considered the “grandfather” of rap. The Weird World of Blowfly opens in Los Angeles September 23, with other cities following.
For more information, visit www.blowflyfilm.com.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago, who also serves as a news editor for FilmMonthly.com.



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