Today is the birthday of John Elroy Sanford a.k.a Redd Foxx (1922-1991). He was born in St. Louis and raised in Chicago, where he became known as Chicago Red on account of his reddish hair. By the 1950s he was working nightclubs and becoming known for his ribald stand-up act. It was the notoriety of these stand -up performances which caused Norman Lear to cast him as Fred Sanford in his 1972 sit-com Sanford and Son as a follow-up to his also controversial All in the Family. His brassy style, most definitely UN-Uncle Tom-like was seminal in bringing the aesthetics of black vaudeville to a mainstream American audience. Here’s a clip from a 1960 album:
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.