John Elroy Sanford, commonly known as Redd Foxx, was an American comedian and actor, most active in the 1950s and 1960s. Born on December 9, 1922 in St. Louis, Missouri, Foxx has had a major impact on the current trajectories in stand-up comedy. Known most notably for his unconventionally explicit comedy, Foxx had an unending influence on other comedians through his mesmerizing catchphrases, body language and facial expressions. Besides performing on over 50 records, he was also an occasional actor. Due to his outstanding ability to make people laugh, he was voted in as the 24th best stand-up comedian by Comedy Central in 2004. Foxx was fluent in many different genres of comedy, restricting his acts to Word play, observational comedy, black comedy and blue comedy. Some of his most famous subjects were African-American culture, human sexuality, race relations and other social themes from everyday life.
The origins of his nickname are of interest, as people resorted to calling him Redd because of his red complexion and hair color. Foxx first began performing in 1939 as part of a group called Jump Swinging Six, their first performance being on a radio show named the Major Bowes Amateur Hour. A few years down the line, he also recorded close to five songs for a music label called Savoy. Foxx gained recognition through his nighttime acts in clubs throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. His performances were marked by explicit language and often, sexual insinuations. After singer Dinah Washington noted one of Foxx’s impressive performances, she invited him to come perform in Los Angeles for record producer Dootsie Williams. This was Foxx’s big break, after which he was to compose over 50 records. Some of his earlier works include Lucky Guy, Fine Jelly Blues and the album Redd Foxx Funn. Foxx subsequently went on to produce many more records in his lifetime, that eventually were to become cult favorites and highly popular in the midst of the local American community of the 1960s. Some of these records include You Gotta Wash Your Ass, Bare Facts and I Ain’t Lied Yet.
While the success of individual records was sustained well throughout his career, Foxx’s biggest project included a lead role in the comedy show Sanford and Son. The show lasted for six seasons, starting in January 1972 and airing the last episode in March 1977. Foxx played the role of Fred. G. Sanford, and together with his son Lamont, ran a junk store. The show was largely based on humorous situations, with occasional racial humor the central theme in the plot. Foxx also successfully portrayed a character role in his 60s, although Foxx was much younger at the time. After the cancellation of the show, he made a brief come back with another show called The Royal Family, which aired shortly before his death. Foxx’s last movie casting was in Harlem Nights, a 1989 comedy crime classic.
Redd Foxx’s tremendous ability to convey comedy limericks to his audiences was a remarkable feat of the American legend. His massive records, together with an unconventional and open-minded approach to comedy influenced future comedians such as Chris Rock and Richard Pryor. Current actor Jamie Foxx also chose his surname as a tribute to the comedy legend. On October 11, 1991, Foxx suffered from a heart attack and passed away the same evening in Queen Of Angels Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, Los Angeles, California.