SXSW Bandwagon: Blowfly’s Swan Song
Late porno parodist/dirty rapper’s final LP gets tribute tonight
By Kevin Curtin,
2:45PM, Wed. Mar. 16, 2016
All artists secretly knock on the wood of their coffins, hoping for a beloved posthumous release. We want a grand goodbye, a gripping final chapter, an exceptional epitaph a la Gram Parsons’ Grievous Angel, Biggie’s Life After Death, or David Bowie’s Blackstar. Death is no time to flop.
When Clarence Reid, the progenitor of the Miami soul sound who doubled as masked porno parodist and dirty rapper Blowfly, died on January 17 of liver cancer at age 76, he had a swan song ready to hatch. The New York Times’ obituary outlined Reid’s bizarre career: multiple self-penned Top 40 R&B hits, including his own “Nobody but You Babe”; achieving proto-hip-hop with “Rapp Dirty”; providing sample fodder for superstars on the order of Beyonce and Easy E; and influencing the creation of KC & the Sunshine Band.
It closed with a curious line:
“A final album is scheduled for release next month. Neither its title nor those of about half of its songs are suitable for printing in this newspaper.”
That record, 77 Rusty Trombones, was a total Austin effort. Released last month on Jeff Smith’s Saustex Records, it was produced by local studio guru Cris Burns, with bass tracks from longtime local Blowfly bandmate Shaun Dickerson. The disc represents “the word’s baddest Nigger’s” return to raunchy R&B parodies, with gems like “If You Don’t Blow Me By Now,” “The Big Gay Crack,” and “She’s Got a Wiener” raising Reid’s freak flag back to full mast.
The potency of Blowfly’s last load is miraculous, considering that of the 26 records he released since 1971, less than 10 are exceptionally good. “Uncle” Tom Bowker, Reid’s producer/manager/drummer, considers this Blowfly’s best album since 1983’s Fresh Juice.
“This record is the gift that Blowfly gave us. It was all he had to give and all anyone will ever need,” says Barker, noting that Reid wrote the majority of the album. “You say whatever you want about the latter state of his career, but here on this album he’s very present, very funny, and he delivers in ways that he couldn’t always do.
“He’s so great that, even here – when he probably had cancer, Alzheimer’s, suffered from a stroke, kidney failure, and liver failure – you couldn’t keep Blowfly down.”
Indeed, Reid sounds more virile than he had in concert lately. Label owner Smith, who’s been enamored with Blowfly since his recently departed Hickoids bandmate and new Austin Music Awards Hall of Fame inductee Davy Jones showed him 2010 Reid documentary The Weird World of Blowfly after having played with him since the mid-Nineties in the Dum Dum Boys and Hickoids, sensed that Blowfly wasn’t long for the stage when the album was mid-production.
“I knew after seeing Clarence at a show we played together during the Republic of Texas rally in mid-2015 that, more than likely, he wasn’t going to be doing a lot of touring, but I remained committed to the project,” admits Smith. “When Tom and I were first discussing the record, I said something to the effect of, ‘I’d like to hear something less punk and more roots.’”
“Clarence was the real deal on so many levels,” Smith continues. “It’s a real honor for me to release it on the label, but it’s been bittersweet to see all the pieces in Rolling Stone, The New York Times, etc. only upon the announcement of his illness and death. He contributed so much to the musical landscape, I wish that some of that recognition would have come when he could have been able to appreciate it.”
Tonight, Wednesday, amongst the madness of SXSW, Reid’s friends, bandmates, and admirers come together at the White Horse for a musical tribute to “Blow.” Blowfly’s backing band, led by Barker, makes the bed for a gang-bang of special guests reveling in Reid’s raunch. 10:30pm sharp – no badge required.