The whole world is getting hip to Bobby Rush.
After decades of tearing up the chitlin’ circuit on a nightly basis with his sweaty, no-holds-barred funkfests, Bobby has thoroughly broken through to the mainstream. He won a long-overdue 2017 Grammy for his spectacular album Porcupine Meat and consistently tours the globe as a headliner. What’s more, Bobby’s new single “Dolemite Kid” on his own Deep Rush imprint (distributed by Thirty Tigers) promises to further spread the news that this revered legend, well past 80 years of age even if his stratospheric energy level belies the calendar, is bigger and badder and bolder than ever.
In the Fall of 2019 Netflix released the original film Dolemite Is My Name, starring Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore aka Dolemite, and an all-star cast including Keegan-Michael Key, Wesley Snipes, Craig Robinson, Mike Epps, Tituss Burgess, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, with appearances by Snoop Dogg and Chris Rock. The film was directed by Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow, Black Snake Moan), written by co-writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski (Ed Wood, American Crime Story), and scored by Scott Bomar. It went on to be nominated for two Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Bobby Rush makes a cameo playing himself as a performer in a Chitlin’ Circuit club in the South, performing his hit song “I Ain’t Studdin’ Ya” which also appears on the soundtrack, released by Netflix Studios/Sony Music Entertainment. He was named King of the Chitlin’ Circuit by Rolling Stone Magazine, a circuit he’s performed on for more than six decades, including for ten years with Rudy Ray Moore himself.
The film is about floundering comedian Rudy Ray Moore, stung by a string of showbiz failures, has an epiphany that turns him into a word-of-mouth sensation: step onstage as someone else. Borrowing from the street mythology of 1970s Los Angeles, Moore assumes the persona of Dolemite, a pimp with a cane and an arsenal of obscene fables. However, his ambitions exceed selling bootleg records deemed too racy for mainstream radio stations to play. Moore convinces a social justice-minded dramatist (Keegan-Michael Key) to write his alter ego a film, incorporating kung fu, car chases, and Lady Reed (Da’Vine Joy Randolph), an ex-backup singer who becomes his unexpected comedic foil. Despite clashing with his pretentious director, D’Urville Martin (Wesley Snipes), and countless production hurdles at their studio in the dilapidated Dunbar Hotel, Moore’s Dolemite becomes a runaway box office smash and a defining movie of the Blaxploitation era.
After the film was released, Rush was inspired to write this song. He says, “‘Dolemite Kid’ was a song that I came up with because of Dolemite Is My Name, which Eddie Murphy was the star of. But I came up with the idea because I had written a song many years ago called ‘Buttermilk Kid.’ Buttermilk Kid was a guy that could do anything and had muscles like Popeye the Sailor Man. After this movie came out with such success, I started thinking about Eddie Murphy and a joke he made when the Dolemite movie first came out. I wanted to do something in that direction because I’m a standup comedian…so it was pretty easy for me to come out with something like ‘Dolemite Kid.’ I was just a bad guy who could take a grizzly bear and whip it with a switch. I could take an alligator and knock his teeth out of his mouth and use it for a remote. That came to me when thinking about the comedian side of what I do. I think we came out with a great thing.” Written by Rush, “Dolemite Kid” was produced by longtime collaborator of Bobby, Vasti Jackson.
Earlier this year Bobby walked the red carpet at the 62nd Grammy Awards in Los Angeles where his 26th studio album Sitting On Top of the Blues was nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album, his fifth career nomination. That award was given to Delbert McClinton. Sitting On Top Of The Blues debuted at number one on the Living Blues radio chart, in the top five on the Billboard Blues chart, and also garnered a Blues Music Award nomination for Best Soul Blues Album.
“I’m sitting on top of the blues. I’m a bluesman who’s sitting on the top of my game, proud of what I do and proud of who I am and thankful for people accepting me for what I am and who I am,” says the charismatic Rush. “I’m happy about what I’m doing and still enthused about what I’m doing. And I think we’ve got some good songs.”
To date Bobby has earned 12 Blues Music Awards and 51 nominations, including the prestigious B.B. King Entertainer of the Year Award and Album of the Year. Rush co-starred in the 2014 documentary Take Me to the River alongside Terrence Howard, Snoop Dogg, Booker T. Jones and Mavis Staples. That same year, Bobby joined Dan Aykroyd on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon to perform two songs, marking his first late-night television appearance.
*Feature image Bill Steber