Redd Foxx - Biography
Prior to experiencing widespread fame in the 1970s as the star of Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx was a notorious blue comic whose cheerfully rude persona was on display in countless party albums that some have estimated sold a combined 15 million copies.??Foxx was born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis, Missouri on December 9, 1922. At an early age he acquired the nickname "Red." When he was four, his father left the family and John was primarily raised by his mother and grandmother. When he was thirteen, he moved to Chicago's south side where, for the next three years, he supported himself playing washboard in a band. After the members parted ways, Sanford took a train to New York City. One of the acquaintances he made there was Malcolm Little (later Malcolm X), who referred to him in his autobiography as "Chicago Red, the funniest dishwasher on this earth."
In 1949, Sanford married Evelyn Killebrew. Their marriage ended in divorce in 1951. At that point, he began performing comedy as Redd Foxx (the last name taken from baseball star, Jimmie Foxx) with fellow comedian Melvin "Slappy" White. Their partnership lasted longer than Foxx's marriage, until 1955 and even after that they remained close friends. In 1955, after performing at Club Oasis in Los Angeles, Foxx was approached by Walter "Dootsie" Williams, who ran the tiny Dootone Records out of his home in Watts. Foxx was paid $25 for his first record, Laff of the Party Volume 1 (1956 Dootone). It was followed by two more volumes and The Best of Redd Foxx Volume 1 (1956 Dooto). The following year, Foxx married a dancer Betty Jean Harris. Over the years, Foxx continued releasing more party albums, including Racy Tales (1959 Dooto), The Best Party Fun (1959 Dooto), The Sidesplitter (1959 Dooto), Funn (1960 Dooto), Have One On Me (1960 Dooto), Red Foxx at Jazzville USA (1961 Dooto), Laffarama (1961 Dooto), This is Foxx (1961 Dooto), Hearty Party Laffs (1962 Dooto), The New Race Track (1962 Dooto), Funny Stuff (1963 Dooto), He's Funny That Way (1963 Dooto), Sly Sex, New Fugg (1963 Dooto), Adults Only (Dooto 1967) and many more records for Dooto (as Dootone was re-named in 1957).
In 1960, Foxx appeared in his first film role, uncredited however, as a pianist in All the Fine Young Cannibals. In 1965, Redd Foxx started his own label, MF Reocrds. With releases like Laff Your Head Off (1965 MF), Naughties But Goodies (1965), Laff Your Ass Off (MF), Huffin' and Puffin' (MF), I Am Curious, Black (MF), 3 or 4 Times a Day (MF), Mr. Hot Pants (MF), A Whole Lot of Soul (1967 MF), At Home! (1967 MF), Is Sex Here to Stay (MF), A Whole Lot of Soul (MF), Foxx often reissued the same material under numerous different titles and with different covers long after he began recording for other labels.
After a brief spell on King, where he released Bare Facts Part One (King), Frank Sinatra lured him to Loma in 1966 after catching him in performance at the Aladdin. There he recorded The Both Sides of Foxx (1966 Loma), On the Loose - Recorded Live! (1967 Loma) and 'Live' Las Vegas (1967 Loma). Foxx appeared (along with Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Diahann Carroll, Moms Mabley, Pigmeat, Sidney Poitier, Richard Pryor and others) on an ABC TV program in 1967, A Time for Laughter: A Look at Negro Humor in America. After the release of Foxx-A-Delic (1968 Loma), Loma closed shop and Foxx moved to the parent label, Warner Bros., where he signed another non-exclusive contract (still releasing records through MF). His major label debut, Up Against the Wall (1969 Warner Bros.) was recorded at Foxx's nightclub in Los Angeles.
In 1970, he returned to film, appearing in Ossie Davis's Cotton Comes to Harlem, which became a sizable hit. In 1972, he became a TV star as Fred Sanford on a retooled version of Steptoe and Son, Sanford and Son. In 1973, Foxx's hometown of St. Louis renamed a section of West Spring Avenue as Redd Foxx Lane. His second marriage ended in 1975, the same year he signed a deal with Atlantic Records and released You Gotta Wash Your Ass (1976 Atlantic), recorded live at Harlem's Apollo Theater and which included primarily previously released material. The same year he got his first starring film role in Norman, Is That You? and again remarried, this time to Yun Chi Chung. The following year, he left Sanford and Son, which was canceled following his departure. He next appeared in a 1978 comedy special, The Krofft Comedy Hour, and then, in 1980, a spin-off of Sanford and Son called Sanford.
In 1981, Sanford was cancelled and his third marriage ended. The short-lived sitcom The Redd Foxx Show in 1986 did little to restore the luster to his star. In 1987 he starred with fellow Missourian Dick van Dyke in the little-seen Ghost of a Chance. In 1989, he was tapped to appear in Harlem Nights, a film starring two of his most obvious comedic progeny, Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor, which provided a boost in his by-then long dormant career. In 1991 he began working on a new sitcom, The Royal Family when, on October 11, he died on the series' set after suffering a heart attack. According to the IRS, he owed more than $3.6 million in taxes.