August Moon, a man of many names and vocations, dies at age 85

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/13/2023, 6 p.m.
One of Richmond’s most colorful figures in entertainment and politics has died.
Mr. Moon

One of Richmond’s most colorful figures in entertainment and politics has died.

August Moon, a dancer, singer, producer and R&B pioneer who also garnered wide attention for his radio and TV talk shows on city politics, succumbed to ill health that had plagued him for years early Wednesday, July 12, 2023 his family said. He was 85.

Named Alexander Randolph when he was born into a poor Richmond family in 1937, Mr. Moon would go on to perform and record under a variety of stage names, “Mr. Wiggles,” “Little Red” and “Dickie Diamond.”

He ultimately adopted — and stuck with — August Moon. He chose the name because it included his birth month, and he likened Moon as something involved with entertainment.

In the music world, he is most associated with “Seven Minutes of Funk” which he co-produced with Richmond performer Tyrone Thomas while managing the interracial Richmond-based group The Whole Darn Family.

The extended song with its distinctive bass line has been recognized as a foundational sampling piece for rap and hip-hop. The online Discogs reports the music’s use in 34 popular pieces, including recordings from the likes of Grandmaster Flash, Wu-Tang Clan, Coolio, Redman, Jay Z, Foxy Brown, Gravediggaz, ThaAlkholiks, Faith Evans, Dru Down, Jodeci and EPMD.

Mr. Moon may have been best known in his hometown for his “Tell It Like It Is” television talk show that ran for more than eight years on Comcast’s public access channel. He interviewed activists, city officials, police and fire chief as well as local and national political figures and popularized locally the saying, “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Everything was grist for his show, and nothing was off the record. “If I smell it, I’m gonna tell it,” said Mr. Moon, who billed himself as the “Mouth of the South.”

“Richmond lost a giant today,” James E. “J.J.” Minor III, president of the Richmond Branch NAACP, wrote in an email to the Free Press.

“August Moon was not afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if it meant standing alone,” Mr. Minor stated, noting that Mr. Moon “started the ‘Stop The Violence’ movement” in the early 1990s when the city had one of the country’s highest murder rates.

“His passion and dedication to everything he did was an inspiration,” Mr. Minor continued. “He will forever be imprinted in our hearts.”

“We viewed our dad as a force, who, when he had a vision, followed through,” said his daughter, Enjoli Moon, who spoke for the family.

“He was a voice for the community and for South Side and the Hull Street corridor,” said Ms. Moon, assistant curator for film and public programs at VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art. She also is the founder and organizer of Richmond’s Afrikana Film Festival and co-founder of the JXN Project to promote Jackson Ward’s history with her sister, Dr. Sesha Joi Moon. Dr. Moon is the director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion with the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We are thankful to have had his example and for being given his spirit,” Ms. Moon said. “We learned from him through his triumphs and through his challenges. He was amazing, though imperfect, and brought everything to the table with love.”

Born during The Great Depression, Mr. Moon grew up in what others described as a two-room shack at Fourth and Maury streets, also known then as Blackwell Bottom.

He dropped out of school, served in the Navy and then found his entertainment calling after returning to Richmond.

As described in a Richmond Magazine article, he became a protégé of Richmond’s pioneering black DJ Allen Knight after repeatedly winning talent shows that Mr. Knight staged at the Hippodrome Theater.

Mr. Knight was able to arrange for “Little Red” to sing and dance on package tours with entertainers such as Ruth Brown, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino. He landed in New Jersey where he appeared in local venues near New York.

Self-taught, Mr. Moon also learned about music production and recording, and would release at least 18 albums on his own labels under his preferred stage name, Mr. Wiggles, as well as recordings for others.