It is possible that this article is NSFW.
Blowfly is nasty. Nasty and weird. For more than 40 years, the 73-year-old performer has sung tweaked versions of soul, rap, and R&B songs, turning them into no-holds-barred, no-words-shunned, no-taboos-respected odes to sex, stink and sweat. And he does it all while wearing a superhero costume.
You know that version of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” that you improvised in the car when you were driving around alone, when you replaced the “c” with a “b”? Blowfly has made an entire career out of that.
No soul performer is safe from his lascivious attentions. Blowfly has taken on Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, Al Green, Roberta Flack, Sly and the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield and dozens more. He has the uncanny superpower to reduce the most sincere, heartfelt sentiment into shameless and hilarious blurts from the id. I’d illustrate my point with his new song titles for “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” and, oh, “I Wanna Be Sedated,” but this is an all-ages newspaper. I bet you can work them out for yourself.
And I suppose that’s is the perverse magic of Blowfly: There’s a little bit of him in everyone. He’s sort of like a combination of Weird Al Yankovic and fellow Miami smut merchants 2 Live Crew.
“I’ve wanted to book Blowfly for five or six years, ever since I saw him in Louisville, Ky.,” says Marc McCloud, owner of Orbit DVD and the man responsible for bringing Blowfly to Asheville. “Bonnie 'Prince' Billy actually opened for him! And then Blowfly came out and scared away a lot of the Bonnie 'Prince' crowd. But it was a party! Women who weren’t part of the show got up on stage in roller-girl outfits and started clogging.”
“And the booking date wasn’t intentional, but it’s also my daughter’s 18th birthday, and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to embarrass her,” McCloud says. “I want to give her a birthday she’ll never forget. Or maybe that’s forgive.”
Blowfly is the most famous and possibly the last purveyor of a genre of albums known as party records. Sold under the counter at record stores or through ads in what we’ll call “party magazines,” party records have been around as long as there has been recorded sound. There has always been a market, it seems, for someone talking/singing about sex or making fart sounds. Rudy Rae Moore, Jimmy Lynch, “country porn” legend Chinga Chavin — one or two of these lewd platters seem to show up in most LP collections from the 1970s. This impulse has gone slowly mainstream, to the point where Cee Lo Green can be nominated for a Grammy for a song with an “f,” two stars and a “k” in the title, and a group like Lonely Island can have a hit album full of songs about messy pants. With the help of Blowfly, the world is weirder.
Blowfly’s most direct influence has been on the world of hip-hop. In addition to raiding the soul songbook, another Blowfly technique is to take the “toast” rhymes (an African tradition of rhythmically elevated, long-form, filthy limerick narratives) of the type seen in the movie Dolemite, and recite them to music, innovating his own style of rap. While it is doubtful that he created rap music in 1965, like he claims in the recent documentary The Weird World of Blowfly, he was an early innovator, and the mandatory presence of a Blowfly record squirreled away in the house of seemingly every major rap performer coming of age in the '70s meant he was a huge influence. Chuck D. cites Blowfly’s takedown of Muhammad Ali in the 1980 track “Rapp Dirty” as the impetus for his own dissing of Elvis and John Wayne in “Fight the Power.”
Blowfly’s lack of decorum and disdain of shame have made him an icon not only to rappers, but also to punks. His last two albums came out on Jello Biafra’s Alternative Tentacles label. Punk Rock Party featured sexualized parodies of the Ramones, Black Flag, the Dead Kennedys (“Holiday in Cambodia” becomes “R. Kelly in Cambodia”) and North Carolina's own Antiseen (“Destructo Rock” becomes something that rhymes with “Destructo Rock”).
One reason for Blowfly’s longevity in the musical porno-parody game is that, as an artist, he has mad skills, which give his records a professional veneer that somehow makes the jokes even more outrageous. When unmasked, he is Clarence Reid, an underappreciated but extremely influential soul singer, writer and producer — one of the key architects of the Miami soul sound of the 1970s. His biggest hits as a writer were “Clean Up Woman,” which was a huge hit for Betty Wright in 1971, and “Rocking Chair”, recorded by Gwen McCrae in 1976. His songs have been recorded by Wilson Pickett, KC and the Sunshine Band and even Band of Horses. As a producer and arranger, he was involved in almost every significant recording that came out on the influential Miami soul, funk and disco labels Alston and T.K.
In other words, Blowfly can rap, knows his way around a track and can genuinely talk some smack in the process. If this sort of thing sounds appealing to you, then, shame on you! Drag your dirty minded, hairy palmed, drool-prone self down to the Grey Eagle and confess your vileness to your fellow scum in front of the high priest of such matters. Me, I’ll be DJ’ing between acts.
— Whitney Shroyer opens the show as Dr. Filth.
who: Blowfly, with Dr. Filth and Kreamy ‘Lectric Santa
where: The Grey Eagle
when: Thursday, July 12 (10 p.m. $12/$15. Adult show, no one under 18 admitted. thegreyeagle.com)