RIP: Clarence Reid, Glenn Frey and Dale Griffin

Posted January 19, 2016 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

A mournful week for the worlds of rock and R&B as R&B songwriter Clarence Reid, Eagles’ co-founder Glenn Frey and M0tt the Hopple’s Dale Griffin dies

Clarence Reid

Clarence Reid, who dressed up as the glitzy comic book-inspired alterego Blowfly while performing X-rated, often-comedic, but always provocative rap songs, died this week on January 17 at the age of 76. Multiple health setbacks ranging from terminal liver cancer and organ failure forced him to enter hospice care where was pronounced dead at a South Florida facility.

Reid’s bio was profiled in the Jonathan Furmanski-directed 2010 documentary The Weird World of Blowfly. In 2015, Reid appeared in the documentary The Record Man, a film focusing on the life and legacy of TK Records’ founder Henry Stone.

Amazingly, Blowfly, one of the earliest raunch rappers, influenced a great number of musicians in the world of rock and hip-hop. Many took to social media to express their love and affection to the legend. “I had the great privilege of playing with BLOWFLY. So much joy,” wrote Flea of Red Hot Chili Peppers on Twitter. Ice T and Chuck D of Public Enemy also echoed their remembrances of Reid.

For soul lovers, Reid served a different purpose. He was one of the principal songwriters to shoulder up Henry Stone’s music empire of TK Records. There he penned a number of soul and early funk classics for artists like Betty Wright (“Clean Up Woman”), Dusty Springfield (“Girls Can’t Do What the Guys Do”), Gwen McCrae (“Rockin’ Chair”), KC & the Sunshine Band (“Sound Your Funky Horn”) and others. Reid recorded a few solo records, even cutting “Rockin’ Chair” on himself, but surrendered to songwriting and dressing up as Blowfly. The Hialeah, Florida label, which housed a number of subsidiaries including Glades, Alston, Drive and Cat, also distributed his Weird World label’s party records, but usually minimized its association with his regional releases by failing to post band personnel and pertinent information on the jacket. His first adult-themed LP was released 1971’s The Weird Wild World of Blowfly; other naughty albums — normally presenting Reid’s parodies of the current pop hits using adult humor — followed.

In a 2013 interview with HiFi, Foxy frontman Ish Ledesma admitted that Foxy was Reid’s session band on the earlier records. “It all started with Blowfly. He was the first artist that we backed at TK. I was aware of Blowfly and we were sitting there trying to cut tracks, and then I’m like ‘Okay, that’s fine, but if we did a whole set of what we do a night, which are like brand new songs, we could probably cut this whole album in a hour…So we cut that whole ‘Blowfly Goes Disco’ album. Our name is not on the album because we asked not to be on the album. We were aspiring to be a known recording group and we figured that although the ordeal was good that it wasn’t a good idea to be included and to be held in the same company with Blowfly. He was like a funny artist; nastay, but very benign.” According to legend, the underground hit “What a Difference (a Lay Makes),” which spoofed Esther Phillips’ disco cover of “What a Difference a Day Makes,” landed Reid in hot water when they tried to cease production of the album. Blowfly’s popularity exploded in black juke joint and supper clubs across the Southeast when his 1979 single “Blowfly’s Rapp” was released. The song, considered to be one of the earliest examples of explicit rap, influenced a generation of rappers including Snoop Dogg (“Blowfly is a legend,” Dogg told Nardwuar), Public Enemy and many others.


Glenn Frey

The Eagles co-founder and guitarist Glenn Frey died on January 18, 2016 at the age of 67. Born and raised in Detroit, Frey moved to the West Coast and co-founded the Eagles with drummer Don Henley, bassist Randy Meisner and guitarist Bernie Leadon after working as Linda Ronstadt’s backing band in 1971. Frey was always considered the chief architect of the group, accredited for giving them their unique vocal and instrumental sound. That sound would become the blueprint to essential Southern California country rock. Frey and Eagles co-vocalist Don Henley also became the backbone of the group’s songwriting, even constructing the group’s famous tune, “Hotel California,” now a golden karaoke standard.

Frey died in New York on Monday from the rheumatoid arthritis that he struggled with for fifteen years. He also suffered from acute ulcerative colitis and pneumonia.

Although they developed and recorded music since 1972, the Eagles ended up breaking into the mainstream on their third album (On the Border), which featured their first number one hit “Best of My Love” in 1974. They continued onward with a succession of hit singles including “One of These Nights,” “Lyin’ Eyes” and the dreamy adult contemporary ballad “Take It to the Limit.” Their success hit its apex when their critically-acclaimed Hotel California LP dropped in 1976. The Grammy-award winning title cut and “New Kid in Town” earned them two more number one hits singles. After releasing a few more albums, the group disbanded in 1980.

Tension ripped the group apart, but Henley stated on Monday that Frey “was like a brother to me; we were family, and like most families, there was some dysfunction.” Henley was famous for saying that that the Eagles would reunite “when hell freezes over.” In 1992, the group reunited for a cluster of recording and resembled touring, starting with their 1994 Hell Freezes Over tour and continuing all the way to the end of 2015.

The breakup of the Eagles didn’t stop Frey’s work ethic. During the Eighties, he pushed his way to the number one spot on the pop charts with the 1984 uptempo smash “The Heat Is On,” a song featured on the Beverly Hills Cop motion picture soundtrack. The hit remains the highest charted single of any member of the Eagles. Other solo hits during the ’80’s included the Miami Vice-featured “You Belong to the City” (No. 2 pop), “True Love” and “The One You Love.”

The Eagles, a six-time Grammy winner, remains one of the best-selling and most successful groups of all time. On record, they have sold over 150 million records. Their greatest hits compilation – Their Greatest Hits (1971-1975) along with Hotel California remains two of the best-selling catalog albums ever.

In the aforementioned statement released by Henley, he opened up about Frey’s importance on the group and to his life. “He was the spark plug, the man with the plan…I’m not sure I believe in fate, but I know that crossing paths with [Frey] in 1970 changed my life forever, and it eventually had an impact on the lives of millions of other people all over the planet.”


Dale Griffin

Mott the Hopple drummer Dale Griffin died on January 17, 2016 at the age of 67. The UK glam rock group, which recorded and performed music from 1969 to 1980 was known for their hits “Roll Away the Stone,” “All the Way from Memphis” and “All the Young Dudes.” Ironically, David Bowie – who passed away last week – produced and wrote “All the Young Dudes” and also served as a backing vocalist on the track. Griffin suffered with Alzheimer’s diseased after being diagnosed with it in 2009 and died peacefully in his sleep, according to record label exec Peter Purnell.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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