Sunday, October 26, 2008

Rudy Ray Moore 1927-2008

Yet more sad news with the death of Rudy Ray Moore.

Norton Records have sent me these memories of the man:

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of one of Norton Records' premier stars, the incredible Rudy Ray Moore-- world famous movie star, recording artist and comedian, known throughout the world as the bad, bad Dolemite. We pass along some in-house memories here, adding to umpteen accumulating accolades.


It's so hard to imagine that Rudy Ray Moore is gone. The phrase "larger than life" seems to have been coined just for him. The Dolemite character of his movies and comedy routines became part of his every day persona. I remember one time years ago, when Miriam and I drove over to pick up Rudy at his sister's place in West Orange, New Jersey. When we arrived at the address, I realized we had no apartment number so I went to use the pay phone outside to call him. There were two characters leaning against the phone booth, one drinking out of a paper sack. They gave me some grief about using “their” phone and a little uneasy banter was exchanged until Rudy strolled out the front door, resplendent in a long black coat with white ermine fur trim and a massive matching chapeau. The guy with the beverage's eyes popped out like in the cartoons. “DOLEMITE!" he cried out. I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall the next morning when that cat tried to sort out his hangover.

Rudy may well have been the single most respected person I've ever met-- admired and revered by people from all walks of life. Once I was driving Rudy to the airport and he was jockeying two calls on his cell phone. He had a hip hop big shot on one line confirming Rudy's appearance at a Player's Ball, while he had a priest on hold. Rappers in particular all cited Rudy's groundbreaking films and records as an influence. One day while I was hauling records in and out of Coyote Studio basement here in Brooklyn, rap star Nas was shooting a video upstairs on North 6th Street. It was obvious that I was in the way, constantly coming in and out of the front door while they were trying to film. A crew member brought my interference to the attention of Mike Caiati, the owner of Coyote Studios. Mike told them to cut me some slack, that I was a friend of Dolemite. Suddenly everyone was my best pal and I was swapping Dolemite posters for delicious gourmet sandwiches.

Nathaniel Mayer, a major fan of Rudy's, pointed out after having his photo snapped with Rudy, “Where I live, if you show anybody a picture of you with Dolemite, you got gold…”

We had the great pleasure in recording Rudy along with Andre Williams on a cover of the Crawford Brothers' I Ain't Guilty, the pair belting out the duet like none other. Rudy arrived in the company of the immortal Jimmy "Mr. Motion" Lynch. Those guys were a non-stop riot! (Rudy climbing the three flights of stairs to the studio: "Jimmy, ain't they got an elevator?" Jimmy: "Sure, Rudy. You elevate one foot and then you elevate the other.") While in the studio, we asked Rudy if he would record a Public Service Announcement on the topic of his choice. He immediately chose AIDS as his topic, and proceeded to cut an excellent, informative off-the-cuff PSA. He then asked to cut another version with "hard words" for FM, and proceeded with a belligerent, hi-octane anti-AIDS rant that took even his saltiest "party records" one better.

When I told him I was booking him room at the Marriott Hotel when he emceed our Norton Soul Spectacular a couple of years ago, he refused to stay there, accusing me of overspending. “Billy, you're just like Busta Rhymes!” Rudy was total class on that show, bringing to the stage one star after another with the same fiery delivery he brought to the screen in DOLEMITE or PETEY WHEETSTRAW. A bad mother to the end and indeed, much, much larger than life.


Billy's always goofing on me for calling things "Old School". For me, that means the good stuff, better ways, the real deal-- as defined by Rudy Ray Moore! The man defined the limits of taste, humor, and style and left everyone around him agog with his regal personality. And you know, he wasn't pompous-- he just naturally oozed total class. Just gliding through a door, you knew with Rudy that you were in the presence of a true V.I.P. And when he spoke, in that astonishing baritone, he could make a simple sentence an awesome, lyrical pronouncement.

We first met Rudy many years ago at a comedy show. The Great Gaylord called and told us Rudy was going to be doing a show in Jersey City with Wild Man Steve. None of us really knew what to expect-- we loved the Dolemite movies and were crazy about his old 45s, but we didn't know how approachable he'd be with a bunch of goofy greenhorn fans. We needn't have worried. Rudy strode in from the shadows after Wild Man, a tall, insanely handsome man with a dazzling smile, and immediately the audience erupted into enthusiastic screams and applause, particularly from the women! From a ladies point of view, let me assure you girls (and Rudy had a delectable way of says "GIRLS" that could make a 90 year old blush and giggle) that when he started cat calling the big bottom dolls, baiting them with what might be considered insults to the uninitiated, it became obvious that this was a man whose craft was making everybody feel like part of the show. Even when he engaged various ethnic, overly-proportional, overtly interesting, and well, plug ugly, people, it was like a hazing into a esteemed club. Getting called out by Rudy was a badge of honor, a matter of pride. Rudy wrapped up the show by personally presenting the ladies in the audience with battery-operated, light-up, scented roses while reciting his Legend of Dolemite, which is as close to the Rime of The Ancient Mariner as rockin' folk care to teeter. We all jumped up for a standing ovation that went all for some time, and afterwards, we all bought Dolemite back scratchers and got autographs and pictures with the man.

It was obvious that Rudy wanted to reach everyone the world over with his talents. He was not content with being a Black icon in film, or heralded as the first Rapper. It was back at an early WFMU record show in a church basement in the East Village, that Billy and I started speaking with Rudy about his early musical days. He was somewhat shocked that anyone thought there was interest in his early R&B recordings. He was instantly on it, digging for scrapbooks, tapes, and any ephemera to help us document his early pre-comedy career. We started seriously pulling together old recordings, and began interviewing Rudy for biographical notes. Rudy told the stories with great relish. We had the tape recorder going in the car during a snow storm while Rudy was belting out Rally In The Valley and remembering the amateur shows in Cleveland, St Louis, New York, Los Angeles--- every city where there was a venue and audience for Black entertainers. Another time we were eating dinner with him at a hotel restaurant, again over a tape recorder, when Rudy pulled out one of his impromptu, gemaceous nonsequiturs. An airline pilot, evidenced as so by the uniform and hat, was eating alone at another table. Quite suddenly, Rudy called out to him, "Excuse me, young man!" and the pilot looks around and says, "Me?" "Are you flying to Dayton, Ohio this evening?" he asked with great pomp and circumstance, with an elegant English accent. Puzzled, the pilot shook his head, no. Rudy went back into his story with us, without missing a beat. Trust me, it was one of funniest moments, ever. Totally out of the blue, unexplained and OLD SCHOOL. Well, the R&B collection ended up as a double LP set called HULLY GULLY FEVER, the first collection of his early records, and the first thorough telling of his early days from the R&B chitlin circuit to his first moments in standup comedy. He said it reminded him of how much he loved to sing, and he took to including some musical numbers amongst his comedy routines.

The world will remember Rudy as an entertainment genius, as a man with great vision and daring, as a man who would continue working his craft until the end of his life. He will also be remembered as the last of the true gentlemen, a veritable Human Tornado whose work will never be forgotten and whose spirit will forever affect and inspire anyone who follows their heart, no matter what. We love you and miss you, Mr. Rudy Ray Moore.

You can read further obits here:,0,5052090.story?track=rss

1 comment:

  1. There will never be another like Rudy Ray Moore. Although I love his albums, Mr. Moore's films grabbed me years ago & still have not released their grip. For anyone who says Mr. Moore's films were "cheap" & "vulgar" I point out one indisputable fact. They were hilarious. Despite having limited funds, Mr. Moore's films always, always brought a sincere & loud laugh. And what greater legacy can a person leave to the world?