Well, here’s a shocker. Beloved character actor Whitman Mayo, most identified with his role as Grady on Sanford and Son…was neither an old timer nor a graduate of the black vaudeville circuits. Doesn’t it seem like he would have been? In reality, he was born in 1930, and was all of 43 when Norman Lear discovered him performing in dinner theatre and scooped him up for Sanford and Son. Prior to this, he’d been in the army and gone to college on the G.I. bill. So popular was Mayo in the role, that he was given his own spin-off series (only lasted ten episodes) and was also cast in the other Sanford and Son spin-offs, Sanford Arms and Sanford. Mayo passed away in 2001. Today is his birthday.
Now here he is in action. He’s such a good comedy ensemble player that I can almost take my eyes off the “cousin”:
To find out more about the variety arts past and present, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. And don’t miss Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, to be released by Bear Manor Media in 2013.