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"Thank You for Letting Me Be Myself"

The story of Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite
By Mark Jason Murray

    Rudy Ray Moore is a living legend and a cultural treasure to the black community. Born March 17, 1927 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, Moore quickly grew accustomed to performing from singing in church. The oldest of seven children, Moore moved to Cleveland, Ohio at the age of 15, peeling potatoes and washing dishes to make a living. After seeing a local talent contest, he realized he wanted to be an entertainer. While learning Modern Dance, he began appearing at clubs, amateur shows, talent shows and anywhere he could perform.

    At 17 years of age, Moore moved to Milwaukee and got a job dancing at The Flame Show Bar and the Moonglow Night Club. Around this time, he adopted the name "Prince DuMarr" due to him wearing a turban during his singing and dancing acts. After securing a position in Neil Stepp's Revue (a variety show consisting of dancers, singers, comedians, etc.), the Prince traveled to many neighboring large cities.

    Moore's singing career quickly began to take hold with several appearances every week back in Cleveland. Initially singing ballads, he changed with the times as rock n' roll began to take hold of the public's interest.

    In November 1950, Moore joined the service and remained enlisted for more than 34 months. Stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky but later traveling to Korea and Berlin, Rudy would often perform for his fellow service men who nicknamed him "The Harlem Hillbilly" for his R&B style of singing country songs. One night while putting on shows at the service club, the following act was slow to come out on stage. The crowd began to yell for something to happen, so Moore performed a comedy routine he had learned from Caldonia Young, a Cleveland comedian whom Moore would watch a lot. The crowd loved it and at this point he decided to pursue his comedy career.

    After the service, he continued to perform and moved to Seattle, Washington to visit his family and wound up recording some songs for Federal Records. The most famous of these recording sessions was "Step it up and go." Although Moore's singing career didn't hit the big time, he did deliver some truly great soulful rock n' roll songs in a similar vein of Richard Berry. Remaining the "Turban headed prince of the blues" up through the late 1950's, Moore decided to perform under his real name and moved to Los Angeles, California in 1959.

    Several more singles were released by various labels, including his own Vermont Records, with Moore performing either as a solo artist or with other vocal groups like The Seniors. He also managed to meet and introduce a lot of black celebrities of the era while being the MC at the California Club. At this time his first comedy albums were recorded, "Below the Belt" (1959), "The Beatnik Scene" (1962) and "A Comedian is Born" (1964). All were met with moderate success.

    While working at the world famous Dolphin's of Hollywood record store, Moore's songs were often playing on their own radio station, but this period of employment would give way to a significant change in his career. A wino named Rico would often come into the store requesting money for soup. Moore would give him money if he would perform a toast called "Dolemite." Toasts are a black tradition of story telling, often the "tallest" tale being the best. Rudy was amazed at how much the people enjoyed this routine and decided to modify it and use it professionally in his act. This single bit of material has become his namesake.

    Realizing he needed to carve out his own niche from other black comedians of that period, Moore took a much more shocking approach to his comedy by filling his material with profanity, sex, and several traditional toasts (Shine and the Great Titanic, The Signifying Monkey, and of course Dolemite), making him the world's first X-rated comedian. His toasts were formatted as rhyming stories ("Some folks say that Willie Green, was the baddest motherfucker the world had ever seen," etc.) and often backed by music which has made him a great influence on rap artists of today, many of which have sampled Moore's material or even went so far as to have him appear in songs or videos.

    Things finally took off in 1970 with the release of the comedy LP "Eat Out More Often" featuring the "Dolemite" toast as well as other material. After four consecutive weeks on the BILLBOARD magazine soul charts for the week ending 8/29/70, "Eat Out More Often" had gone up ten spots from #34 to #24. By 11/21/70, "Eat Out More Often" had dropped to #40 but the quick release of Moore's second LP, "This Pussy Belongs To Me," followed close behind at a steady #49. Moore made history by being the first 'soul' artist to have two releases chart at the same time.

    Sixteen more comedy albums were released within a few years, selling well over a million copies combined, though none achieved the massive acclaim of his first two ground breaking albums. With outrageous titles like "I Can't Believe I Ate The Whole Thing," "The Streaker," "Dolemite for President," and "Dolemite is Another Crazy Nigger" his releases were always held under the counters at record stores. But what really took the public by surprise were his outlandish and incredibly daring record covers which always featured Moore and several women seminude in hilarious and suggestive poses. This by far helped his releases gain the status they achieved since these records were not teasing you and gave you "more than you came for!"

    Moore's comedy albums were always recorded at his home instead of in a club. He would invite his friends over, serve drinks, with an engineer there to record the proceedings. This quickly gained him the title "The king of the party records."

    Crowds were beginning to want more from Moore, and in particular the "Dolemite" character. In 1974, Rudy gathered all the money he had made from his records and performances (approx. $100,000) and produced his first film, DOLEMITE. Although amateurish in virtually every aspect of film making, there is an incredible charm to the film which to this day is regarded as a cult classic. From his companion (and fellow comedian) Lady Reed, his all-girl kung fu army, pimpin' clothing and decor, and incredibly outlandish characters (the Hamburger Pimp being a personal favorite), you can't help but laugh at it while you laugh with it.

    A frame up has landed Dolemite in jail. The police commissioner agrees to let him out of jail if Dolemite can use his street smarts to help stop Willie Green (played by frequent Fred Williamson sidekick and this films' director, the late D'urville Martin), who is running the Los Angeles area's criminal activities with the help of the Mayor. Dolemite gets his club back from Willie Green and puts an end to his criminal activities by ripping Green's guts out with his bare hands! The script is relatively scatterbrained, never exactly staying on track to the plot. It is basically just a showcase for Moore to do his thing. But you won't find a complaint here. You are watching this movie for that reason alone. All the extra action is a bonus.

    Moore proved that "Dolemite" was even badder on screen than he was on record. One major aspect of the films popularity is the incredible dialogue created by Moore. He wanted to create phrases that weren't necessarily vulgar but would make the crowd stand up and cheer. Something like "You no business, insecure, rat soup eatin', junkyard motherfucker!" had audiences screaming for more and the MPAA scratching their heads about how to rate the film. Although initially laughed at by studio executives and critics the film was a blow away success and paved the way for more films.

    The further adventures of Dolemite were featured in the film THE HUMAN TORNADO (sometimes incorrectly referred to as Dolemite 2) in 1976. Dolemite is caught in bed with the white Sheriff's wife (who is paying him for his services) and after a narrow escape (Moore rolling butt naked down a hill to his get-a-way car!), he and his boys head to California. Upon arrival, they learn that two of their female friends are being held captive in a torture chamber by Cavaletti, who's forcing Lady Reed and her girls to work for him at his club. The girls are eventually rescued and Cavaletti gets his own taste of the torture chamber.

    Moore had no choice but to take his character over the top. Cavaletti's wife gives up the girl's whereabouts after Dolemite literally fucks the house down around the two of them. Cavaletti himself has his testicles eaten off by rats in the torture chamber! While having sex with Hurricane Annie (a female "toast" character created by Moore), shots of Dolemite eating ribs are intercut into the sequence. This has got to be one of the most hilarious metaphors ever committed to film! The film's theme as well as a track entitled "Mr. Wonderful" are both sung by Moore.

    Another character from his comedy act was introduced to film in 1977 with PETEY WHEATSTRAW - THE DEVIL'S SON-IN-LAW. After receiving a large investment from Mr. White (an obvious send up of his skin color) to open their club, Leroy and Skillet (Leroy and Ernest Daniels, a famous black comedian duo at the time) are nervous to learn that Petey (Moore of course) will be in town on their opening night. They can't afford the competition and when Petey won't cancel his show, he and his friends are all gunned down outside a funeral. A deal is cut with Lucifer allowing Petey to return to the living world in exchange for marrying the devil's incredibly ugly daughter. Armed with a magic cane, Petey ruins Leroy and Skillet's club. But Petey thinks he can trick the devil out of their arrangement. The funniest scene of the film is when Lucifer conjures up some horny little devils (pun intended) for Petey's bachelor party. The shots of Petey going at it with his head bobbing up and down between the girl's legs is hilariously sped up and worthy of numerous rewinds!

    In 1977 Moore also appeared in MONKEY HUSTLE as big time hustler, Goldie. Directed by Arthur Marks (Foxy Brown, Bucktown, Disco 9000) the film also starred Yaphet Kotto. The irony of this situation is that the film was produced by American International Pictures. When Moore had approached AIP in hopes of having them distribute DOLEMITE, they turned the picture down flat. Three years later they realized their mistake and asked him to co-star in this forgettable entry.

    In 1978, producers tried to clean up Moore's film image with DISCO GODFATHER (aka The Avenging Disco Godfather). Moore is Tucker Williams, a retired cop who's now known as "The Disco Godfather" and works as a DJ at a local club ("Put your weight on it!"). Tucker's nephew flips out on angel dust and lands in the hospital, so he sets out to "bust the dust". He goes on a rampage, busting dealers, pushers, and breaking up drug parties. At one party, people are even snorting cocaine off a SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER soundtrack album! Tucker is later forced to inhale some angel dust, hallucinates about his child molesting mother and sees a monster. Of course, the crowds were completely unreceptive to a watered down disco version of the bad motherfucker they had loved and enjoyed for years.

    1982 brought his comedy routines to video in the form of RUDE. A documentary, THE LEGEND OF DOLEMITE later appeared in 1994.

    Although his films earned large amounts of money at the box office, the film's distributor, Dimension Pictures, went bankrupt leaving Moore right back where he started from. He has now regained the rights to all his films which are currently heavily rented and sold on both dvd and vhs.

    The fact that Moore was so far ahead of his time has often left him overlooked by the media and it's critics. Only now is he beginning to get the respect and admiration that he deserves as a performer and a pioneer. He has done several cameo appearances in films over the years as well as completing his first feature in many years,THE DOLEMITE EXPLOSION. Moore continued to sing throughout his career. The album "Rudy Ray Moore is The Hipshakin' Papa" was released in 1997 in both a "clean" and "XXX rated to the bone" versions featuring some great selections. Another release chronicaling his 50's and 60's R&B tracks, "Hully Gully Fever", was released in early 2000 and received a tremendous reception that spurred Moore on to record The Genius of Rudy Ray Moore: Soul Singer and LET ME SING TO YOU, which feature his final vocal performances.

    Moore refused to let health issues get in his way and continued to appear live up until his passing due to complications of diabetes on October 19, 2008. His influence on popular culture still resonates today and will continue to be felt for generations to come. A true entertainer, the likes of which are definitely rare in this day and age, Moore was a one of a kind personality and one that will be terribly missed.

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