On this day in comedy on March 17, 1927 Comedian, Recording Artist, Actor, Dancer, Musician, Filmmaker, Rudolph Frank Moore (aka Dolemite) was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas.
Moore was known as the “Godfather of Rap” based on his numerous comedy albums featuring dirty rhymes and jokes. He went by the stage name of Dolemite, a character in his films who was part-pimp, part gangster.
Moore got his start as a preacher in Milwaukee. He expanded his flair for entertaining as a dancer / singer in nightclubs, known by the name of Prince DuMarr. His Army buddies changed that name to the Harlem Hillbilly when Moore shipped out to Germany as part of their entertainment troupe. He sang country songs with an R&B feel. He also got turned onto comedy. Once out of the Army he moved to Los Angeles, got back in nightclubs and got discovered. Dootsie Williams recorded Moore’s songs under 5 different labels from 1955-1962. In 1959 Moore recorded his first comedy album, Below the Belt, followed by The Beatnik Scene (1962) and A Comedian Is Born (1964). He was making a living, but not living it up.
Then came Dolemite. He’d heard stories about the character from a guy while Moore was working at a record store in 1970 and decided to become that character for his own persona. He recorded the comedic tales in natural settings; like his own home with friends over drinking and getting high as Moore told jokes, sang songs and did nasty rhymes. He was an instant hit.
Moore was one of the titans of “party records”; recordings labeled XXX by most of their distributors. Many of these albums were sold under the table at record stores and had to be given to the patron in a brown paper bag so the suggestive covers of naked women were obscured. In rapid succession Moore released Eat out More Often, This Pussy Belongs to Me and The Dirty Dozens.
It was through those recordings that he was able to finance his first film, Dolemite (1975). That low budget hit became known as one of the greatest Blaxploitation films of all time and spawned sequels: The Human Tornado, The Monkey Hustle, Petey Wheatstraw: The Devil’s Son-in-Law and The Return of Dolemite. . Moore was ghetto fabulous and traveled extensively as Dolemite as his stage act and his fans adored him. He could do no wrong with them. On the road his merchandise sales often tallied more than the fee he received to perform.
Moore remained active throughout his career. His popularity endured as rap artists; especially Snoop Dogg credit rap to Moore. It was his raw edged rhymes accompanied by music in the background that lent itself to his pioneer status. Even in his later years he was so revered rappers sought his collaboration on their tunes and he’s featured in many from Big Daddy Kane to 2 Live Crew.
Rudy Ray Moore was prolific. He released over 30 records, appeared in almost 20 films and lent his talent and expertise to other artists until he passed away on October 19, 2008 in Akron, Ohio from complications of diabetes.
By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton
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