If you were in the vicinity of Miami, Florida in the mid to late 1960s, and you were jonesing to see and hear live soul and R&B acts, you would have to have ventured into the legendary Overtown Black Entertainment district to do so. One night spot in particular, Sir John’s Knight Beat, was where an underage FranCina Jones would go to witness some of the most talented and exciting sounds from the back of the room. One local singer/songwriter that had captured the fandom of FranCina was none other than Clarence Reid, the alter ego of cult superhero smut rapper/crooner/entertainer Blowfly. Years before Clarence would don the outfit, however, he performed soulful tunes that got him favorable attention and a record deal with the soul label Deep City. In 1968, Clarence joined the Alston/TK label where his songwriting talents and production work not only elevated his reputation, but would also go on to shape the careers of Gwen McCrae, KC & the Sunshine Band, Betty Wright, and many others for years to come. On the side, Clarence would write sexually explicit versions of hit songs and perform them at parties and in the studio just for fun. Eventually, he would step into that prophetic phone booth and emerge (with costume) to release the underground classic “The Weird World Of Blowfly” on Weird World Records, a subsidiary of Clarence’s parent label TK. And, as they say, the rest is history.
In 2012, FranCina (much like her underage self so many years prior) journeyed out to see her old pal Clarence, who was giving a full-blown Blowfly show in their hometown of Miami. But instead of seeing him at one of her preferred soul and funk clubs from yesteryear, he was performing at the punk rock catering establishment Churchill’s Hideaway, some 40 blocks from their old stomping grounds in Overtown. Gigs nowadays were rarely attended by Clarence Reid fans of the old days, but instead the crowds were full of punks, metalheads, rappers, fringe types, and pretty much anyone who had an appreciation for songs like “Spermy Night In Georgia” and “Shitting On the Dock Of the Bay”. After reconnecting with Clarence backstage, FranCina found herself sitting in with the band for “Clean Up Woman”, a hit for Betty Wright in 1971, penned by Clarence himself. Three months later, FranCina opened for a rare Clarence Reid solo show that was filmed for the documentary “Deep City”, which focused on the early days of soul music in South Florida. The success of that gig created a new alter ego for Blowfly’s backing band, the Overtown Soul Revue, whose mission was preserving and performing the early recorded works of the pre-Blowfly Clarence Reid discography. Often under this guise, the musicians would play special occasions, including the “Save the House Party” shows that were fundamental in helping Clarence pay back delinquent taxes and keep his home. FranCina would join the band onstage whenever the OSR would book performances locally, adding her amazing vocal talents and bringing the house down every night.
On January 12, 2016, it was announced via Facebook that Clarence was suffering from terminal liver cancer and had been admitted to a hospice care facility in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida. Sadly, not even a week later, on January 17, Clarence succumbed to his illness when he was struck with multiple organ failure, at the age of 76. FranCina and the OSR now found themselves rededicated to spreading the musical legacy that they had worked so hard to preserve by holding tribute shows in Clarence’s honor. With Saustex Records releasing Blowfly’s final album “77 Rusty Trombones” in February of that same year, the OSR decided to follow suit and record material for a single. Multi-instrumentalist Reggie Sears and drummer Tom Bowker entered the studio to lay down music for the songs “No Way Out” and “I Am Controlled By Your Love” (both written by Clarence), with FranCina providing vocals. The songs were instrumentally tracked, sung, and mixed in four afternoons at Reggie’s Mixed Royalty Sound studio and Hialeah’s Shack North. The results are proof that Clarence was quite a songwriter in his own right, and that his music is timeless. It’s just as relevant now as it was 50 odd years ago when these songs were originally written. FranCina Jones and the Overtown Soul Revue have produced a fresh, yet faithful recording that honors the legend of Clarence Reid.
“No Way Out”:
To order “No Way Out”/”I Am Controlled By Your Love” by FranCina Jones & the Overtown Soul Revue, as well as Blowfly’s final album “77 Rusty Trombones”, head over to the Saustex website.
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