Clarence Carter grew up in Alabama listening to Blues singers like John Lee Hooker and Washboard Sam - guys who found many different ways to sing about sex. Carter is best known for his 1970 hit "Patches
," where his bold voice and spoken word interludes told the story of a young who inherited the burden of caring for his family after his father died. Carter took these same vocal elements and turned them into "Strokin'," a ribald song that finds him asking the kind of questions Howard Stern uses to query his guests. The song is blatantly sexual, and Carter never made a clean radio edit (we're not sure what that would sound like), so it never got any significant radio airplay, and although it did have a video, MTV wouldn't touch it.
Since the song was not fit for broad public consumption, Carter and his record label, a small Atlanta based outfit called Ichiban (run by Blues and Soul
magazine editor John Abbey), came up with an unorthodox plan. They produced singles, but instead of marketing them to stores or radio, they placed them in jukeboxes, where bar patrons discovered the song and wore out the grooves. DJs started playing the song at weddings. Strip clubs put it in hot rotation. "Strokin'" became a minor sensation and helped Carter's Dr. C.C.
album sell about 150,000 copies. Carter also became a popular live draw, with this song serving as his showstopper.