Rudy Ray Moore—the notoriously blue comedian, blaxploitation star and rap pioneer that Eddie Murphy portrays in the much-anticipated Dolemite Is My Name—had strong ties to New Orleans.
In 1957, Moore worked as driver for the touring Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns when Smith’s “Rocking Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” reached the R&B Top 10. Moore got the driving gig through his friend, Bobby Marchan, the Clowns’ lead singer. Moore, a singer and emcee in those years, also appeared with Marchan in New Orleans at the legendary Dew Drop Inn.
After his move to Los Angeles in 1959, Moore’s return visits to New Orleans included 2003 and 2004 appearances at the Ponderosa Stomp. In 2002, he brought his final Dolemite movie, The Return of Dolemite, to Baton Rouge for its world premiere at a theater managed by his friend, Fred Williams.
Dolemite Is My Name, a crowd-pleasing hit at the recent Toronto Film Festival, opens in theaters October 4 before streaming October 25. Eddie Murphy’s comeback movie, it’s a project the actor and comedian has wanted to make for nearly 20 years. “I love the Dolemite pictures,” Murphy says in the Dolemite Is My Name production notes. “Back when I used to tour, we played his records on the tour bus.”
Dolemite Is My Name focuses on Moore’s late-blooming career as Dolemite, a character inspired by Rico, a toothless wino, as Moore described him, who recited black folklore toasts laced with obscenities. Moore refined Rico’s “raw-soul poetry” and eventually recorded it. In 1970, Moore’s independently-released comedy album, Eat Out More Often, became an underground hit.
In 1975, Moore brought Dolemite to movie theaters with the self-financed Dolemite. A martial arts-plying pimp, Dolemite returned the following year in The Human Tornado. In the ’70s Moore also played the devil’s son-in-law in Petey Wheatstraw and a DJ vigilante in Disco Godfather.
The creative team behind Dolemite Is My Name includes director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Empire) and screenwriters Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, The People vs. O.J. Simpson). The film’s all-star cast features Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Chris Rock, Mike Epps, Craig Robinson, Kodi Smit-McPhee and Snoop Dogg.
Dolemite records were sampled by 2 Live Crew, NWA, Easy E, Dr. Dre, MC Ren and others. Moore appeared in music videos with Snoop Dogg (“Doggy Dogg World”), Erik B. & Rakim (“The Ghetto”) and Ol’ Dirty Bastard (“Got Your Money”).
“Rudy Ray Moore was one of the first ones to put rap and rhyme to rhythm,” Snoop Dogg says in the movie’s production notes. “A lot of great rappers perfected their skills and their styles and their look off of watching Rudy.”