I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that without Clarence Reid’s multiple musical talents the Miami scene would not have existed – certainly not been the huge success it was from the late 60s onwards anyway. And although he made more money from his songwriting and record producing, particulary with collaborators Willie Clarke and Steve Alaimo, than from his singing, he was a prolific artist under his own name, and also as the king of rude party discs, Blowfly. But hits in his own right were few and far between, unlike his huge successes like Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” and Gwen McCrae’s “Rockin’ Chair”.
Reid was born in Cochran, GA on February 14th 1945, but by the early 60s he was leading a vocal group in Miami called the Delmiras (or Delmiros on Selma). He cut his first songs with them in 1963, the majority of which were bouncy uptempo tunes, including the local hit “Sooner Or Later” with the wonderful Paul Kelly depping as the uncredited lead singer. My favourite of these early efforts is the very good ballad Like White On Rice which is now extremely rare and is an unheralded deep winner. Backed by his own pumping piano and some fine horns Reid gives a strong vocal performance – this 45 must have been Reid’s first encounter with Henry Stone, Miami’s finest record man.
In the following year Clarence joined up with the Deep City crowd, writing and producing the excellent Helene Smith, as well as starting up his own eponymous label. He also found a new contact in Buddy Killen who provided access to better distribution for his product. Of the Dial releases I like the lively “There’ll Come A Day” with it’s distinctly Motown feel, but the pick of them was undoubtedly the excellent deep soul of Somebody Will which Killen eventually leased out to New York’s Wand operation. Although I’m a very big fan of Buddy’s wonderful country soul productions, it’s not at all evident that he played any sort of part in the musical outcome of this track. But Clarence’s heartfelt vocal has more than a touch of the Paul Kellys about it, especially in his use of falsetto. One of his very best cuts and no mistake. The big city styled “Your Love Is All The Help I Need” went straight to the Big Apple without a Dial release. His final Dial 45, “Gimme A Try” was at least as good as his previous Killen discs, but the lack of commercial success on the others led Wand to pass on it. But for some reason Killen also missed out on the splendid Your Love Has Got A Hold On Me with it’s light, airy touch and easy paced rhythm. Because this only ever came out on Reid it remains one of Clarence’s most obscure recordings – a pity as it deserved a better fate.
Back on Deep City and billing himself as “The New Clarence Reid” he made the excellent deep Tired Blood, based on the theme of a popular radio ad, which featured another strong vocal performance and instrumental arrangement. This formed part of a slew of tracks leased out to Harold Lipsius’ Jamie concern, including other artists like Helene Smith, Joey Gilmore and Frank Williams’ Rocketeers who all joined Reid on the Phil LA of Soul subsidiary. Sadly none of the 45s sold well enough for a long term investment in Miami music by the Philly based organisation, and that was thought to be it for Clarence’s Deep City involvement as it was believed for years that his other single for the label was irretrievably lost. But thanks to the persistence of those good folks at Numero Uno both sides of what would have been Deep City 2377 have surfaced on their “Outskirts of Deep City” CD/LP. “No Way Out” is a typically robust uptempo Reid effort, but “Don’t Be A Fool” is a real revelation – super chord changes and some tasteful guitar/organ make a great backdrop for Clarence to sing out the helpful advice in the lyric. The hookline is particularly tasty.
But since Deep City was at the end of its tether by now, the Miami crowd looked elsewhere for help and found it in Jack Taylor, the tough boss of Rojac. Snoopy Dean’s Third Guitar project found a home on the main label, and Reid went to the Tay-Ster off shoot which released his first LP “Nobody But You Babe”, the tracks of which included all six sides on the 45s. I’m particularly fond of the Otis R tribute “Heaven Will Welcome You” and the first class “There’s Something Special About My Baby” but my pick of a fine album is the emotionally powerful I’m Sorry Baby. But when nothing happened on the sale front, Reid and Clarke decided to pay a call on Henry Stone, who provided them with a stable business environment for a number of years within which they were able to create some of the best southern soul of the 70s.
But in addition to the hits they started writing and producing for other artsits, they got a hit on Clarence himself pretty much right off the bat with the funky “Nobody But You Babe” which owed a pretty big chuck of gratitude to the Isley Brothers “It’s Your Thing” but still went to #7 in the Billboard charts in . But this recut of the title track to his Tay-Ster LP must have caused Jack Taylor to have a seizure.
Over the next decade or so Reid was mainstay of the burgeoning Miami soul scene. Look at recordings by almost any of the artists who featured on Stone’s roster and you’ll see his name – often of course in collaborations with Willie Clarke or Steve Alaimo. And right up to the TK implosion at the end of the decade he kept on trying to emulate that big hit, with getting on for 25 singles released, and 3 LPs. You would have to say that a lot of the material was not his very best work, that was given to more successful artists, but in amongst the “party party” rubbish and quite a lot of undistinguished funk there were some memorable moments.
The string laden “Down The Road Of Love” is a lovely tuneful slow love ballad, also recorded with distinction by Jimmy “Bo” Horne. And the strong beat ballad “Living Together Is Keeping Us Apart” is a highlight of the “Running Water” album, as is his take on JP Robinson’s wonderful “Please Accept My Call” which uses the same rhythm track as JP’s 45. Reid’s final album had the classic sunshine rhythms and melodic hook of “Come On With It” as well as two good beat ballads in “Mr Smith’s Wife” and “The Best Part Of A Man”. Perhaps the song that has become the best loved of his 70s music is the very well constructed uptempo “Baptize Me In Your Love” which is just on the acceptable side of disco. But for me the pick is his excellent Atco side I Bet You Believe Me Now which has a fine angry lyric, and some of Reid’s best ever vocals over a highly melodic hookline with a great female chorus. Really should be better known.
Since the end of TK Reid has continued to produce music, using his own Reid’s World label as well as Bound Sound as his outlets. There have been some excellent results too from Wanda Star Williams, Midnight Magic and especially Frankie Gearing on whose “Child Please” flip to “Tears On My Pillow” he can be found duetting with the great artist. And of course he has tried with Reid Inc a female quartet whose LP is now in heavy demand from the funk crowd. But the music industry – and public taste- is not what it was and none of this has dented the charts.
But we shouldn’t let these recent failures cloud our judgement about Reid’s astonishing contribution to soul music. And although he never really made it as an artist his work for others lives on as a testament to his talents. Perhaps as a writer he spent too long thinking about other artists needs to develop an artistic personality of his own and it could be that this prevented him from becoming a start in his own right. Apart from Blowfly that is…
I don't wont the leftovers / Anything that's good to you ~ NURIA 119 (1963)
Sooner or later / Down with it can't quit it ~ SELMA 4002 (1963)
Like white on rice / Push a little harder ~ DADE 1855 (1963)
There'll come a day / I got my share ~ DIAL 3018 (1964)
Somebody will / I refuse to give up ~ REID 2744 (1964) / DIAL 4019 (1965) / WAND 1106 (1965)
Carry on / Your love has got a hold on me ~ REID 2745 (1964)
I'm your yes man / Your love is all the help I need ~ WAND 1121 (1966)
Part of your love / Gimme a try ~ DIAL 4040 (1966)
Tired blood / Cadillac Annie ~ DEEP CITY 2372 / PHIL L.A. OF SOUL 301 (1967)
I'm sorry baby / Let those soul sounds play ~ TAY-STER 6013 (1967)
Heavens gonna welcome you / The price I have to pay ~ TAY-STER 6014 (1968)
Some thing special about my baby / Along came a woman ~ TAY-STER 6022 (1968)
Part time lover / Fools are not made (they are born) ~ ALSTON 4572 (1968)
Nobody but you babe / Send me back my money ~ ALSTON 4574 / ALSTON 4576 (1969)
I'm gonna tear you a new heart / I'm a man of my word ~ ALSTON 4578 (1969)
I’m gonna tear you a new heart / I’m a man of my word ~ ALSTON 4582 (1969)
Chicken hawk / That’s how it is ~ ALSTON 4584 (1970)
Master piece / Down the road of love ~ ALSTON 4588 (1970)
Diredt me / You knock me out ~ 4592 (1971)
You got to fight / Three is a crowd ~ ALSTON 4597 (1971)
I get my kicks / Gotta take it home to Mama ~ ALSTON 4598 (1971)
Mr hot stuff / Miss hot stuff ~ ALSTON 4600 (1971)
Love every woman you can / Ten tons of dynamite ~ ALSTON 4602 (1971)
Ten tons of dynamite / Good old days ~ ALSTON 4603 (1971)
A real woman / I’m gonna do something good to you ~ ALSTON 4608 (1972)
Why baby / Pt 2 ~ GLADES 1701 (As CLARENCE & GLORIA – duet with GLORIA PORTER) (1972)
Ruby / Two people in love ~ ALSTON 4613 (1972)
Till I get my share / With friends like these (who needs enemies) ~ ALSTON 4616 / GLADES 1705 (1973)
Winter man / Funky party ~ ALSTON 4621 / DASH 5012 (1974)
When my daddy rode the West / Rockin’ chair ~ DASH 5014 (1974)
Baptize me in your love / Whatever it takes ~ ALSTON 3717 (1975)
I bet you believe me now / See through ~ ATCO 7025 (1975)
Mr. Smith's wife / Come on with it ~ ALSTON 3720 (1976)
Just another guy in the band / I’m excited ~ ALSTON 3733 (1977)
You get me up / It’s hell trying to get to heaven ~ ALSTON 3748 (1979)
Nobody but you babe ~ TAY-STER 3333 (1969)
Dancin’ with nobody but you babe ~ ATCO 307 (1969)
Running water ~ ALSTON 7027 (1973)
On the job ~ ALSTON 4404 (1976)
As CLARENCE REID & THE FUNKY PARTY BAND feat. JULIUS and ELLIS
Child support / The State Attorney’s Theme ~ BOUND SOUND 1111 (80s)
As CLARENCE REID
Funny money / Little girl rap ~ WAR BONNET 103 (80s)
1. All of Clarence's LPs have been issued on CD somewhere in the world. In addition you can find "I refuse to give up", "Somebody else will" and "Gimmie a try" can be found on the Ace UK CD "The Dial Southern Soul Story" and "I'm your yes man" on "Dancing till dawn" from the same company.
2. Does anybody know if "To far to turn around" / "DJ’s prayer" ~ JEWEL 129 (As CLARENCE REED) is the same guy?