Rudy Ray Moore (1937–2008)
African-American comedian, singer, film actor, and film producer Rudy Ray Moore was known as “king of the party records” because of the popularity of his comedy albums. He released many comedy albums in the 1960s and 1970s and was best known for the character Dolemite, which he developed in his standup routine and portrayed in two films, Dolemite and Dolemite II: The Human Tornado.
Rudy Ray Moore was born on March 17, 1937, in Fort Smith (Sebastian County). The oldest of seven children, he often sang in church and developed a taste for performance. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, at the age of fifteen and sang and danced at local clubs. In 1950, Moore joined the armed forces. He often sang for other servicemen when off duty, and when he left the service, he recorded several singles, though none of them achieved success.
It was as a comedian that Moore truly blossomed. Moore often crafted his jokes into poems, or “toasts,” which he recited to audiences for humorous effect. Some of these were taken from traditional African-American stories. He also utilized “the Dozens,” a form of oral competition in which two or more opponents take turns trying to one-up each other with increasingly shocking and more humorous insults. Moore’s style of standup was considered even raunchier than that of such contemporaries as Richard Pryor and Red Foxx and kept him off mainstream television and major films, but he garnered a loyal fan base and influenced later comedians, including Sam Kinison, who cited Moore as an influence.
Moore released thirty-one comedy and vocal albums and has appeared in over twenty films, including Petey Wheatstraw (1977), and, more recently, he was a guest star in the Insane Clown Posse’s film Big Money Hu$tla$ (2000). But it is for Dolemite (1974) that Moore is often recognized. As part of the blaxploitation genre, Dolemite featured Moore’s signature character, a clever, tough, black pimp, followed by his kung-fu-fighting female army. Though the film is amateurish in production, Moore’s humorous dialogue made the film very popular.
Moore’s humor and style of presentation have influenced entertainers from comedians to rap artists.
He was still performing and periodically releasing albums of comedy and music until his death on October 19, 2008.
For additional information:
“Rudy Ray Moore.” Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0601834/ (accessed February 5, 2007).
Rudy Ray Moore Official Site. http://www.rudyraymoore.com/ (accessed February 5, 2007).
Shabazz, David L., and Julian L. D. Shabazz. Dolemite: The Story of Rudy Ray Moore. Clinton, SC: Awesome Records, 1996.
C. L. Bledsoe
Last Updated: 11/12/2008