Born March 17, 1937, in Fort Smith, AR, blaxploitation legend Rudy Ray Moore began his life as an entertainer after moving to Cleveland, OH, at the age of 15. Forging a music career under the stage name of "Prince Dumarr," Moore belted out gutbucket rhythm & blues while wearing a trademark turban, recording several singles and touring through various Midwestern cities. By 1959, he had moved to Los Angeles, dropped the pseudonym, and was focusing on a standup act. A trio of comedy albums released in the early '60s on Dooto Records didn't hit for him, so Moore worked part-time in a record store, where a local wino named Rico would often visit to beg for change. The panhandler recited bawdy "toasts" in exchange for food money, tall tales set to rhyme that have figured in African-American culture for years. One of these stories was "Dolemite," the tale of a mythical black superman who fights lions and can kill women with the power of his lovemaking. Moore began incorporating "Dolemite" and other toasts into his act, as well as expanding on the suggestive humor of Redd Foxx with explicit profanity and crude jokes about life on the ghetto streets. He self-financed the release of an album in this new style, and Eat Out More Often was a surprise hit in 1970, spending time on the Billboard soul charts despite the fact that record stores had to keep the album behind the counter. Moore followed with a number of X-rated comedy platters, all recorded in his own home with friends as the audience (which led them to be dubbed "party records").
By 1975, Moore decided to branch out into motion pictures, and again staked his own money to produce a film version of his most famous routine. Dolemite was a low-budget action-adventure-comedy shot in and around Moore's Los Angeles home. With Moore as the titular pimp-hero (wearing a dazzling array of funky outfits), a harem of kung fu-fighting prostitutes, corrupt white politicians, and plenty of excuses for Moore to perform snippets of his nightclub act, the film was an outlandish, ridiculous vehicle for the comedian that successfully brought his vision to the screen. It was popular enough to warrant a sequel, The Human Tornado (1976), as well as an adaptation of another of Moore's standup routines, The Devil's Son-In-Law (1977). After releasing the concert film Rudy Ray Moore: Rude in 1982, the comedian's movie appearances dried up, though he continued to make personal appearances and sporadic recordings.
Many rappers have named Moore as a major influence and samples from his records and films have turned up on releases by artists like Dr. Dre, Big Chief, and 2 Live Crew. While the rhythmic, profane delivery on his comedy albums accounts for his reputation in the hip-hop world, it can be argued that his films are responsible for keeping his legend alive today. Many of Moore's films are widely available in mainstream video outlets, while his X-rated records are often difficult to find.