Funny (though sad) to find Sanford and Son news trending this morning (Nathaniel Taylor, who played Lamont’s friend Rollo, has died, according to several sources). Today I’m scheduled to write about a couple of other recurring characters on the show: Skillet and Leroy.
Skillet (Ernest Mayhand, 1916-2007) and Leroy (Leroy Daniels, 1928-1993) were a comedy team who started out on the Chitlin’ circuit back in the 1940s, where they knew and worked with the likes of Redd Foxx and Lawanda Page. In the early days you can see them do stuff separately; Leroy appeared as a shoeshine boy in the the musical The Band Wagon (1953); Skillet is an episode of Amos ‘n’ Andy.
In the ’60s they became known for a series of highly bawdy comedy albums, often in collaboration with Page, usually recorded live at shows produced by impresario Johnny Otis, with titles such as Big Dead Dick, Back Door Daddy, 2 or 3 Times a Day, The Okra Eaters, and The Burglar in the Bedroom. A picture is worth a thousand words (warning: skip over these if you are easily shocked):
When Redd Foxx landed his big sitcom Sanford and Son in 1972 it was probably inevitable that Skillet and Leroy would find their way onto the show, if in bowdlerized form. They’re only in about a half dozen episodes, as “Lucky Leroy” and “Slick Skillet”, a couple of pool playing buddies of Fred’s, the sort of “heathens” that Aunt Esther (Page) expressly disapproved of.
You can also see the pair of them in the movies Petey Wheatstraw (1977) and Rude (1982). Additionally, Leroy appears in Disco Godfather (1979) and Avenging Angel (1985), in which he reprises his bootblack routine,
To learn more about old school show biz, please consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,