Rudy Ray Moore
Rudolph Frank Moore
March 17, 1927
Fort Smith, Arkansas, U.S.
|Died||October 19, 2008 (aged 81)|
Akron, Ohio, U.S.
|Occupation||Actor, comedian, singer, film producer|
Rudolph Frank Moore (March 17, 1927 – October 19, 2008), known as Rudy Ray Moore, was an American comedian, singer, actor, and film producer. He created the character Dolemite, the pimp from the 1975 film Dolemite and its sequels, The Human Tornado and The Return of Dolemite. The persona was developed during his early comedy records. The recordings often featured Moore delivering profanity-filled rhyming poetry, which later earned Moore the nickname "the Godfather of Rap." Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy portrayed Moore in the 2019 film Dolemite Is My Name.
Moore was born and raised in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and eventually moved to Akron, Ohio, and then Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In Milwaukee, he preached in churches and worked as a nightclub dancer. He returned to Akron, working in clubs as a singer, dancer, and comedian, often appearing in character as Prince DuMarr. He joined the US Army and served in an entertainment unit in Germany, where he was nicknamed the Harlem Hillbilly for singing country songs in an R&B style. He developed an interest in comedy in the Army after expanding on a singing performance for other servicemen.
After his honorable discharge he lived in Seattle, Washington and then Los Angeles, where he continued to work in clubs and was discovered by record producer Dootsie Williams. He recorded rhythm and blues songs for the Federal, Cash, Ball, Kent, and Imperial labels between 1955 and 1962, and released his first comedy albums, Below the Belt (1959), The Beatnik Scene (1962), and A Comedian Is Born (1964).
By his own account, he was working at the world famous Dolphin's of Hollywood record store in Los Angeles, California in 1970 when he began hearing obscene stories of "Dolemite" recounted by a local man named Rico. Moore recorded a number of street poets, including Big Brown who, before he moved to Los Angeles, had been an influence on Bob Dylan, among other artists, while living in Greenwich Village. (Dylan said Brown's poetry was the best poetry he had ever heard.) In 1973, Moore produced Brown's album, The First Man of Poetry, Big Brown: Between Heaven and Hell.
According to Moore, there was a wino named Rico, and Moore heard him on the street corner doing all these raps and rhymes:
Rico, you do "Dolemite", I'm gonna give you some money for soup. He did "Dolemite" in the middle of the floor in the store I was working and the people just rolled. So I thought then, he's not a professional; I'm a professional comedian. What if I did "Dolemite"? Sure enough, I invited him to my house, give him a little reefer and some wine. He put "Dolemite" on tape, I recorded it, the rest is history.
Moore began recording the stories, and assumed the role of "Dolemite" in his club act and on recordings. In 1970–71 he recorded three albums of material, Eat Out More Often, This Pussy Belongs To Me, and The Dirty Dozens, where "with jazz and R&B musicians playing in the background, [Moore] would recite raunchy, sexually explicit rhymes that often had to do with pimps, prostitutes, players, and hustlers."
Moore was influenced by more mainstream comedians such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, as well as by traditions such as the Dozens. The recordings were usually made in Moore's own house, with friends in attendance to give a party atmosphere. The album covers and contents were often too racy to be put on display in record stores, but the records became popular through word of mouth and were highly successful in Black American communities, where his "warped wit and anti-establishment outlook" were embraced.
Moore spent most of his earnings from the records to finance the movie Dolemite, which appeared in 1975 and has been described as "one of the great blaxploitation movies" of the 1970s. The character was "the ultimate ghetto hero: a bad dude, profane, skilled at kung-fu, dressed to kill and hell-bent on protecting the community from evil menaces. He was a pimp with a kung-fu-fighting clique of prostitutes and he was known for his sexual prowess."
The film was successful and was followed by The Human Tornado, The Monkey Hustle, and Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil's Son-in-Law. Moore continued to release albums that appealed to his enduring fanbase through the 1970s and 1980s, but little of his work reached a white audience. His "rapid-fire rhyming salaciousness exceeded the wildest excesses" of Foxx and Pryor, and his highly explicit style kept him off television and major films. At the same time, Moore often spoke in his church and regularly took his mother to the National Baptist Convention. He said that: "I wasn't saying dirty words just to say them... It was a form of art, sketches in which I developed ghetto characters who cursed. I don't want to be referred to as a dirty old man, rather a ghetto expressionist."
In 1990, Moore appeared on Big Daddy Kane's album Taste of Chocolate.
In 1994, Moore appeared 2 Live Crew's album Back at Your Ass for the Nine-4.
In 1995, Moore appeared in an episode of Martin titled "The Players Came Home".
In 1997, Moore reprised his Dolemite character for a voiceover in the intro of Busta Rhymes' platinum album When Disaster Strikes....
In 1999, Moore reprised his Dolemite character in an appearance on Snoop Dogg's album No Limit Top Dogg.
In 2000, Moore starred in Big Money Hustlas, a movie created by and starring the hip hop group Insane Clown Posse, in which he played Dolemite for the first time in over 20 years.
In 2001, Moore was a featured guest in the intro of Busta Rhymes' platinum selling album Genesis.
In 2006, Moore voice-acted in the show Sons of Butcher, as Rudy in season 2.
In 2008, Moore reprised the character Petey Wheatstraw on the song "I Live for the Funk", which featured Blowfly and Daniel Jordan. It marked the first time Blowfly and Moore collaborated on the same record together, as well as the 30-year anniversary of the movie Petey Wheatstraw; it was also the final recording Moore made before his death.
Moore never married. His long-time manager, Donald Randall, said in 2012 that Moore had both female and male lovers. Entertainer Stanton Z. LaVey, a friend of Moore's, said in 2019 that Moore was "very much bisexual, if not gay", and that his Dolemite persona helped cover it up.
On October 19, 2008, Moore died in Akron, Ohio, of complications from diabetes. His mother, two brothers, a sister, a daughter, and grandchildren survived him.
He came to be regarded as a major influence by many later rap stars. Snoop Dogg said that "without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dogg, and that's for real."
On June 7, 2018, it was announced that Craig Brewer would direct Dolemite Is My Name from a script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski with Netflix producing and distributing and Eddie Murphy starring as Moore. Later that month, the rest of the principal cast was announced. In July 2018, Chris Rock and Ron Cephas Jones joined the cast. Principal photography began on June 12, 2018. In August 2019, the trailer was released. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019, and received a limited release on October 4, 2019, before digital streaming on October 25, 2019.
|1976||The Human Tornado||Dolemite|
|The Monkey Hu$tle||Goldie|
|1979||Disco Godfather||Tucker Williams|
|1995||Murder Was the Case: The Movie||Dolemite||Short|
|1996||Martin||Dolemite||Episode: "The Players Came Home"|
|1997||Violent New Breed||Pastor Williams||Direct-to-video|
|Fakin' da Funk||Larry|
|1999||Shaolin Dolemite||Monk Ru-Dee||Direct-to-video|
|Jackie's Back||Bad Guy||TV|
|2000||Big Money Hustlas||Dolemite||Direct-to-video|
|Shoe Shine Boys|
|2002||The Return of Dolemite||Dolemite||aka The Dolemite Explosion|
|Live At Wetlands N.Y.C.||Himself||September 2000 music performance and comedy at Wetlands in New York City|
|The Legend of Dolemite: Bigger and Badder||Himself||DVD release with performance clips and interviews with Moore|
|Rude||Himself||1982 comedy performance at Blueberry Hill in Los Angeles|
|2003||The Watermelon Heist||Angel of Death|
|2005||Sons of Butcher||Rudy the psychic janitor||TV series|
Season 2, 1 episode
|2007||A Stupid Movie for Jerks||Cop|
|2009||It Came from Trafalgar||Dangerous Dan||Posthumous release, (final film role)|
|2019||Dolemite Is My Name||Himself||Archive footage; posthumous release|