Rudy Ray Moore is best known for his Dolemite character which appeared in a string of low-budget 1970s blaxploitation films. His jive-talking, rhyme-spitting comedian/pimp/martial artist character has become a cultural icon and has been homaged by Mad TV and in the loving blaxploitation tribute, Black Dynamite.
Moore’s best films, Dolomite, The Human Tornado, Disco Godfather, and (my personal favorite) Petey Wheatstraw have all been recently reissued in gloriously fully-loaded, ultra-deluxe Blu-ray editions by boutique label Vinegar Syndrome, and I can’t recommend them enough for fans of ‘70s so-bad-it’s-good grindhouse fare.
Rudy Ray Moore, straight pimpin’, in “Petey Wheatraw, The Devil’s Son in Law.”
Though Moore, who left this mortal coil in 2008, sold thousands of spoken-word “party records” as a comedian, he is not widely remembered for the dozens of records he released as a musician. Moore is considered by many to be “the Godfather of rap,” as his rhymed “toasting” storytelling style is often cited as one of the great inspirations on that musical genre; but Moore’s own musical recordings are, by and large, straight r&b and early rock and roll affairs, with many of the early singles demonstrating obvious Little Richard and Chuck Berry influences.
His talent as a singer rivals his talents as a comedian and martial artist—and depending on your level of Rudy Ray Moore fandom, that is either a slight or high praise.
I’ll let you be the judge.
The best collection available of Moore’s musical output is the wonderful Hully Gully Fever album. Many of the sides on that release, collected from early singles, fit the category that collectors of early soul records term “tittyshakers.”
This track, “Robbie Dobbie” is available on that release:
This track, “Buggy Ride,” has a Chuck Berry feel in the verses that slide into a catchy call-and-response chorus. It is also available on the Hully Gully Fever album:
This track, “Just Won’t Be Content,” was originally released in 1959 on the Vermont record label:
This track, from much later in Moore’s career, appeared on the Mr. Jerry Walker party record “The Fairy Godmother.” It’s a funky, mostly instrumental, track with Moore doing a James Brown-ish command to “put your weight on it,” which was one of his signature catchphrases:
I had the pleasure of seeing Rudy Ray Moore’s nightclub act a few years before his death and he was still incorporating musical numbers into his act, though he was singing to a pre-recorded backing track instead of with a live band. He was an incredible showman.
In the off-chance that there’s anyone still reading this who has no idea who Rudy Ray Moore or Dolemite are, below is the trailer for his all-time classic debut film. This is what it’s all about: