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Also Known As: John Elroy Sanford Died: October 11, 1991
Born: December 9, 1922 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: St Louis, Missouri, USA Profession: comedian, actor, dishwasher, sign painter

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

Comic and actor Redd Foxx enjoyed considerable underground success with a series of X-rated comedy records, which would lead to mainstream stardom as the cantankerous Fred Sanford on "Sanford and Son" (NBC, 1972-77). Born John Elroy Sanford on December 9, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri, he and his brother, Fred Sanford, Jr., were raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois by their mother and grandmother after the departure of their father, Fred Sanford, Sr., when Foxx was four years old. He showed an aptitude for telling jokes before the age of 10, and began performing while still a student at DuSable High School, first as a member of a singing group, and later as a solo vocalist, recording five songs for the Savoy label. Foxx relocated to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where he supported himself as a dishwasher; there, he befriended Malcolm Little, later known as civil rights activist Malcolm X, who used the name "Detroit Red." Foxx would adopt the moniker "Chicago Red," initially to differentiate himself from his friend, but he later added a second "D" to "Red" and adopted the surname "Foxx," which he took from baseball great Jimmie Foxx, when he began working the city's nightclub...

Comic and actor Redd Foxx enjoyed considerable underground success with a series of X-rated comedy records, which would lead to mainstream stardom as the cantankerous Fred Sanford on "Sanford and Son" (NBC, 1972-77). Born John Elroy Sanford on December 9, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri, he and his brother, Fred Sanford, Jr., were raised on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois by their mother and grandmother after the departure of their father, Fred Sanford, Sr., when Foxx was four years old. He showed an aptitude for telling jokes before the age of 10, and began performing while still a student at DuSable High School, first as a member of a singing group, and later as a solo vocalist, recording five songs for the Savoy label. Foxx relocated to the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, where he supported himself as a dishwasher; there, he befriended Malcolm Little, later known as civil rights activist Malcolm X, who used the name "Detroit Red." Foxx would adopt the moniker "Chicago Red," initially to differentiate himself from his friend, but he later added a second "D" to "Red" and adopted the surname "Foxx," which he took from baseball great Jimmie Foxx, when he began working the city's nightclub circuit. He soon made a name for himself on the East Coast for his bawdy comedy routines, which he occasionally performed with another comic, Slappy White; jazz singer Dinah Washington advised him to head to Los Angeles, where he met record producer and label owner Dootsie Williams of Dooto Records. Foxx was offered $25 to record his first comedy album, Laff of the Party, in 1956, which was followed by more than a dozen LPs, all of which hinged on jokes about sex, race and other adult topics, all delivered in Foxx's signature raspy tones. Though popular, they were not financially profitable for the comic, and he left Dooto for MF Records in 1965, and later, King Records and the Reprise imprint Loma Records. The material grew bolder and more explicit, as did Foxx's fame. By the mid 1960s, Foxx was playing dates in Las Vegas and appearing on network variety and talk series like "The Joey Bishop Show" (ABC, 1967-69). He made his first credited appearance in a feature film in Ossie Davis' "Cotton Comes to Harlem" (1970), playing a junkman who discovers a fortune stashed in a bale of cotton. The success of the film led to his first starring role in a network series, playing another junkman, Fred Sanford - named after his brother - in the Norman Lear/Bud Yorkin-produced "Sanford and Son," which was adapted from the British comedy "Steptoe and Son" (BBC, 1962-1965, 1970-74). Though the humor was tamped down for mainstream audiences, Foxx's turn as Sanford preserved the earthy tone of his comedy albums, and he drew upon many of his peers from the comedy circuit, including Slappy White, Don Bexley, Leroy Daniels and Ernest "Skillet" Mayhand and LaWanda Page, who often stole the show as Sanford's sister, Esther, to fill out the supporting cast. The series was a sizable hit for NBC, but Foxx's relationship with the producers and network was tumultuous: he was written out of the final six episodes of the third season after walking off the set due to alleged health issues, though a salary dispute was the real cause of the blowup. NBC countered Foxx by suing him for $10 million, prompting his return to the series, and he would remain on "Sanford" until the sixth season, when he joined ABC for his own self-titled variety series in 1977. His departure led to the cancellation of "Sanford," which was soon followed by the demise of his variety program, and while Foxx remained a popular guest on variety programs and a headliner in Las Vegas, his career never regained the heights he had reached with "Sanford." He attempted to revive his most famous character in 1980 with "Sanford" (NBC, 1980-81), but the comedy couldn't match the success of its predecessor. His personal life also went into decline during this period, due largely to a penchant for exorbitant spending, which led to his filing for bankruptcy in 1983, and tax liens by the IRS which at one point, allegedly resulted in the seizure of nearly all his personal belongings. But he remained an influence over a generation of comedians that followed in his wake, including Eddie Murphy, who tapped him and fellow Dooto labelmate Richard Pryor - who had co-written episodes of "Sanford" - to appear with him in "Harlem Nights" (1989), which also marked Murphy's directorial debut. Though a box office failure, it sparked renewed interest in Foxx's career, and he returned to television in 1991 with "The Royal Family" (CBS, 1991-92), a sitcom produced by Murphy with Foxx and Della Reese as a retired couple who find themselves hosting their daughter and her three children. Ratings were positive for the first three episodes of the series, but on October 11, 1991, Foxx suffered a massive heart attack during rehearsal and died that same evening. The series would continue briefly without him, but as the tributes from comics and entertainers who knew and were influenced by him all noted, Foxx was irreplaceable.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Harlem Nights (1989)
2.
3.
4.
 Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) Uncle Bud
6.
 Laugh, a Tear, A (1990)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1977:
Hosted "The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour"
:
Owned five homes, a TV production company, a theatrical managament firm, a Los Angeles nightclub and a Hollywood beauty parlor during "Sanford and Sons" heyday
:
Teamed in comedy act with Slappy White
:
Worked as nightclub comedian
:
Began appearing on TV and in Las Vegas during the 1960s
:
Guest performer on "The Lucy Show", "The Addams Family", "Mr. Ed", "Green Acres" and "The Name of the Game" in the late 1960s
1939:
Member of amateur musical group the Bon Bons, Chicago
:
Played the black vaudeville circuit, also known as the "chitlin circuit"
:
Did a short time in jail at Rikers Island for heisting a bottle of milk
:
Grew up in Chicago
1938:
Hopped a freight train to New York with his band; changed his name to Redd Foxx (from his red hair and Foxx from his stylish ways and the spelling of slugger Jimmie Foxx's name)
1935:
Ran away from home at age 13 and joined a street-corner washboard band
1991:
Starred as a grandfather in TV series "The Royal Family" (produced by his protegee Eddie Murphy)
:
Starred as junkman Fred G Sanford in "Sanford and Son"
1991:
Began final starring role on TV in "The Royal Family"
1964:
First network TV appearance on "Today" show, hosted by Hugh Downs
1989:
Began career revival with a co-starring role opposite Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor in "Harlem Nights"
1954:
Recorded the first of his scatological "blue" records; "The Life of the Party" became his first underground hit
1970:
Played junkman Uncle Budd in "Cotton Comes to Harlem"
:
Landed breakout role as Fred Sanford on "Sanford and Son"
1956:
Released <i>Laff of the Party</i>, his first comedy album on Dooto
:
Appeared uncredited as a piano player in the film "All the Young Cannibals," which marked his first feature appearance"
:
Made TV debut on an episode of "Today"
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Notes

"Long before Richard Pryor and others began skewering social taboos about sex, race and other delicate topics, Mr. Foxx was playing nightclubs and making 54 'party records'--spoken comedy with no music--a genre he claimed to have originated in 1956."--Nick Ravo ("New York Times" obituary, October 13, 1991)

"No one expected me to be on television because I had a reputation from the party records as X-rated, but that's the type of humor I like. That's the humor I heard in the ghettos. They didn't pull no punches, and they didn't want to hear about Little Boy Blue and Cinderella. So I gave them what they wanted. I busted loose."--Redd Foxx in a 1982 interview (quoted in the "New York Times" obituary, October 13, 1991)

Companions close complete companion listing

wife:
Evelyn Killibrew. Divorced 1951.
wife:
Betty Jean Harris. Married 1956, divorced 1976.
wife:
Yun Chi Chung. Married 1978, divorced.
wife:
Kaho Cho. Model. Married July, 1991; Korean; fourth wife.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Fred Sanford. Electrician. Abandoned family.
mother:
Mary Alma Sanford. Minister.
step-daughter:
Debraca.

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