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  R.I.P. Rudy Ray Moore--by Papa Ray the Soul Selector

RUDY RAY MOORE  10/20/08
Vintage Vinyl gives praise and recognition to one of the dirtiest comedic geniuses of any era: the innovative, outrageous Rudy Ray Moore, who passed away on Monday at the age of 81.
A few things for those who might not be familiar with Moore: 

  1. In our nearly 30-year history, we have sold more CDs, LPs, and countless cassette tapes by this stage comic than any other two performers combined.  This includes Richard Pryor AND any other comedian you can think of.
  2. Long before the era of comedy shows on cable television and X-rated rap artists, Rudy Ray Moore was by far the point man for outrageous in your face and laughing raw sexually explicit humor.  That will make him a saint to some and the devil incarnate to others, but that was who RRM was: as he could rightly say in that unique, ‘Rock stone’ harsh and expressive voice, ‘I was Mackin’ while all you other #@$!?# s were just actin’.   Verily, this is true…

A comedian’s comedian, Rudolph Franklin Moore, born in 1927, had no less than rap star Snoop Doggy Dog once flatly say, ‘Without Rudy Ray Moore, there would be no Snoop Dog, and that’s for real’.  Styling an outrageous style of humor rooted in black American street experience and the world of professional sex, Moore had many comic personas: Petey Wheatstraw (donning the mantle of the notorious and popular East St. Louis bluesman from the 1930s), The Devil’s Son –In-Law, The High Sheriff Of Hell; Shine, Rock.  His groundbreaking LPS from the late 60s into the 70s, and then a series of self-produced movies solidified his reputation in urban America as the most corrosive AND drop-dead funny comedian of his day. By comparison, Redd Foxx was prime time, Bill Cosby was a church deacon, and Richard Pryor sounded like his errant son, minus a genius for the well-made rhyme (we shall not quote any of these rhymes here, but be assured, they were the rhetorical equivalent of carbolic acid as humor).  His following in St. Louis was deep by the time he used the Fox Theatre in 1979 for the world-premiere of Disco Godfather: as with all his films, they were shameless send-ups of blaxploitation movies of the era, with plenty of voluptuous ladies and the leering remarks of whatever character Moore was portraying on camera (actually, they were the same character), wedded to hilarious burlesquing of martial arts flicks.  It was all gloriously UN-PC, and is today the very definition of the independent cult movie.

My first contact with the Devil’s Son- In- Law came when I contacted him in 1987 for a concert entitled ‘Blues Meets Dolemite!’, which pared Moore with the legendary blues man Bobby Rush (who, in a much less explicit way, had based his own career on double-entendre humor that traded on sexual content), and from that time on I had the pleasure of being his friend and agent for shows here in town.  Even if another promoter was involved, Vintage Vinyl was his base of operation while in St. Louis.  I think the warmth and friendship for V.V. stemmed from the straight up due we gave him as a comedic legend and dignitary from the moment he stepped off that airplane back in the 80s, at a time that saw a low point of his popularity; this was right before his re-discovery by an entirely new generation who came to ‘know his game’ from the use of material in samples by such rap groups as 2Live Crew in the late 80s.
Throughout the 90s, I stayed in regular touch with Rudy Ray; sometimes booking shows, sometimes facilitating others booking him in the region.  We did numerous dates over the years, and Blueberry Hill’s Duck Room became our favored venue for his SRO appearances.  He loved it when I would assemble a good band of the city’s blues musicians to frame his routines.  Offstage, his demeanor was soft-spoken, courtly, and in every way that of a gentleman.  When it came to his shows, he displayed the same Do it Yourself instincts that served him well as a guerilla comedian.  Rudy preferred to come into town a day or so early, and would always spend time going around to radio stations, clubs, and night spots, renewing acquaintances and hyping the upcoming show
or his latest release. He was a natural at promotion.  His comedic timing was second to none.  And---this is crucial---no matter how raw and outrageous his words, they were never said in hate or contempt; perhaps this is why his shows were always well-attended by women, groups of women, often commandeering the front tables and laughing the loudest at Dolemite’s jokes. 
Our final date was in 2006, at Blueberry Hill. By that time, his health was very precarious, but as always he came in, rehearsed with the band, and somehow made the show.  His last routine was the venerable ‘Signifying Monkey’, and in it’s rhyming couplets could be seen his genius with the oral tradition of ‘running the dozens’ with style and verve.  I was alarmed at how weak he was looking, but he even turned that  to his performing favor...the rock stone voice grew softer, and he bent his head as he recited, his voice more quiet, and the effect made the room silent as you could see him drawing every listener in.  After the final words ceased, he received a standing ovation.

He was my friend, and there was nothing better than picking up the telephone and suddenly hearing that voice say ‘RAY?? THIS IS RAY.”  He was gloriously funny and filthy in equal measure, and it was a privilege and professional pleasure to have worked with one of the greatest comic originals this world has ever seen.  Rest In Peace, Rudy Ray Moore, and wherever you are now, do as you always said ---Put Some Weight On It.


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