December 8, 2005
by BOB DORAN
I don't expect to see many of the salt 'n' pepper-haired Baby Boomers who laughed and laughed as George Carlin spun out his "extreme" comedy last week when that nasty ol' Blowfly comes to town for a show at Humboldt Brews next Wednesday, Dec. 14 -- even though Blowfly's explicitly sexual/scatological schtick may seem tame compared to Carlin's dark humor.
A little back history: Blowfly was born in the Georgia back country 60 years ago as Clarence Reid. His penchant for talking dirty began not long after. "My mother said it was when I was eight months old; that's when I said my first curse word, which was 'that smells like shit.' When my grandmother heard me say shit, she got a stick and beat my mother's ass. Grandmas will do that. They figure the only way a baby can learn that word is if they heard ya'll say it."
His grandma also gave him the nickname that would become his alter ego. "Let me start from the beginning," he told me when I had asked about something else entirely, and he went into a long story that led to him working in the fields at the age of seven, often alongside the equally poor, white "crackers."
He says he liked music, but, "I couldn't get into blues, where the corn don't grow, the hens don't lay; your wife's running around, all that kind of shit. I liked the hillbilly music. So I took this Ernest Tubb song, 'I'm Walking the Floor Over You' [he sings a verse] and I changed it around to 'I'm Jerking My Dick Over You,' and talked nasty about Ernie and Minnie Pearl. The white people, they'd say, 'You're the nastiest little fucker,' and then they'd give me money saying 'You are so fuckin' funny.' I'd go home with so much money, my grandmother thought I'd stole it. When she found out what I was doing she said I was a disgrace to the black race and I was no better than a blowfly.
"I didn't know what a blowfly was and it bothered me, until this girl Melma told me. She said, 'Junior, I'm not prejudiced, but I'm beginning to hate [your grandma]; she shouldn't do you like that. A blowfly's a horrible thing, it's a black and red and yellow insect that lays eggs on dead things that turn into maggots.' I started to cry until she told me 'There's a good side. I read in a book, without blowflies, the world would've been consumed by germs years ago. The maggots eat up the germs on dead things and that's a good thing. So I said, 'I'll be Blowfly.'"
His professional music career began in the '60s in Miami where, as Clarence Reid, he recorded soul songs and wrote material for singers like Betty Wright -- her biggest hit, "Clean-up Woman," was one of his. On the side he performed as Blowfly, a caped, masked alter ego who took the lyrics to the songs of the day and altered them the way he did when he was a boy, adding scatological references or turning them into tales of oral sex, anal sex, gay sex, masturbation, STDs -- the nastier the better. He made a series of records and sold a lot of them, although he's not sure how many since they were often banned, driving the market for them underground where no financial records are kept.
In the '80s and '90s his music started showing up as samples on hip hop records by Ice Cube, Puff Daddy and the Wu Tang Clan. He hit the road again, touring with Fishbone and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers as a backup band. More recently journalist/drummer Tom Bowker met him while researching a story; since then he has been spearheading another Blowfly revival that so far has included an album, Fahrenheit 69, for Alternative Tentacles, and numerous tours. Another record is in the works. Blowfly notes that it includes, "a new song about President Bush and a talkin' turd that's probably gonna get me in trouble."
An interview with Michelle Cable for the latest issue of Panache landed him a new booking agent (Michelle), which explains why he's playing Humboldt Brews next week. The Buffy Swayze and JPG share the bill -- B.S. bassman James tells me they are donating their share of the door to the Michelle recovery fund.
Michelle is also behind the show Friday, Dec. 9, at the Alibi with another of her stable of Japanese bands, Watusi Zombie, offering what I'm sure will be a different take on garage rock. Arcatan garage rockers The Ravens open.
Saturday at the Alibi Revival Rescue, a guitar/stand-up bass duo out of Santa Rosa, plays alt.Americana they call "red hot ol'tymabilly." Our own Que La Chinga opens. QLC also plays Friday at Muddy Waters with Strix Vega, another band that mixes twang and rock. Then on Sunday it's another Alibi Panache benefit, this time with heavy rock by Orick and a new local punk band, Ten Paces.
On the reggae tip, Thursday, Dec. 8, The Abyssinians return to Humboldt for a show at Six Rivers Brewery. One of the original Jamaican Rasta vocal groups, the band is still led by Donald Manning, who tells me, "I still sing about Rastafari. I'm still going to carry the torch that Bob Marley used to carry and him leave it. Many more Rastaman used to carry the torch, some of them gone on, some get weak and some drop out, but the struggle must go on."
Catch Bay Area jamband Plum Crazy at Six Rivers Friday; Ponche! rocks the house AfroCuban-style Saturday.
Saturday at Mazzotti's it's a new band, The Generators, with Dan Perez of Arcata Music on guitar, John Murdock from the Brothers Murdock on bass, Bill Moehnke of the Eureka jazz Moehnke family on drums and Madi Simmons of Stone Crazy, etc., on vocals. According to Perez the music is in the "high-energy classic rock" mode ranging from the Stones and The Beatles to Judas Priest and Mountain.
Thursday at Muddy Waters, Arcata's preeminent jammers Nucleus sing their songs then stretch out. Next Monday, Dec. 12, the jamming Scott Law Band plays "rock, rhythm and throw-down funk" led by the guitar-slinging Mr. Law.
Are the blues good for your health? Ask The Backseat Drivers when they play at Arcata Artisans Friday night for Arts! Arcata. The trio includes Frank Anderson, RN (from Open Door) and Drs. Ann Lindsay and Alan Glaseroff (public health officer for the county of Humboldt and chief medical officer of the Humboldt-Del Norte Independent Practice Association, respectively).
The students who run HSU's KRFH are throwing a dual-purpose concert this Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Bayside Grange. They're hoping to make some money, but mostly they want to honor Gary Melton, KRFH's "great founder and fearless leader for 16 years," who passed away this year. KRFH concert director Michael McManus says, "We wanted to celebrate him in the only fitting way, with a super concert!" Gary's old band, The Mad River Project will perform along with Laden Swallow, Day-Go (one of Pete Ciotti's projects) and the funky Moo-Got-2. According to Dan "Dub Cowboy" Giannotta, who started his radio days at KRFH, "Gary was incredible -- one of the shining stars. He put KRFH together, created a family atmosphere -- a lot of DJs at KHUM and elsewhere came from there."
Mike Dronkers, KHUM's program/music director, was one who went straight from KRFH into a local professional career. He says, "I owe him a debt. He was the guy who told me I should do this on a higher level. When you were around him, you'd get it. He made you want to do good."
Tickets go on sale Monday for two back-to-back CenterArts indie rock shows coming to the Van Duzer early next year: The Violent Femmes on Feb. 5 and a solo show with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco on Feb. 6. Get 'em while they're hot or sit in the balcony.
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