Redd Foxx

For the last few months we’ve been building up to the holiday season—and I did not realize my penchant for red and green. What with Red Smith, Red Green, Lorne Greene and now at the suggestion of Bumba, wonderfully named comedian, Redd Foxx—he double downed on the last letters of his stage name.

Redd came into this world as John Elroy Sanford of Chicago, Illinois. He earned the name Redd for his ruddy complexion and he adopted the name Foxx from Major League Baseball player, Jimmie Foxx.

While still in Chicago, he worked as a dishwasher and was referred to as Chicago Red, not to be confused with his friend and fellow dishwasher, Detroit Red, better known as Malcolm X.

He started his comedy career on the “Chitlin Circuit” in the 1940’s and 50’s. The blue humor, too scandalous to be seen or heard by the main stream circuit. He made comedy records earning him the title, King of the Party Record. The records eventually brought him to the notice of notables Ed Sullivan and Red Skelton.

Looking good Redd.

Looking good Redd.

By 1972 Redd starred in “Sanford and Son”, his character, Fred G. Sanford, named for his older brother. Many of the characters on the show were named after people Redd admired.

His character, Fred Sanford, notorious for faking heart attacks, known as “the big one” at the mention of bad news, would clutch his chest and say, “You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m coming to join ya, honey!” He continued to use the bit throughout the rest of his career.

Redd broke color barriers. He was the first black actor to headline shows on all three major networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. He appeared on the cover of TV Guide five times.  He influenced comedians such as Richard Prior and Eddy Murphy both of whom he worked with on “Harlem Nights”.

Sadly issues with the law and financial woes cost him. He lost everything in 1989 to the IRS.

In 1991 he launched his comeback with the TV show “The Royal Family” on CBS. While rehearsing for an episode, Redd had The Big One. Everyone on set thought he was horsing around and did not respond right away. He died later at the hospital.

Because his widow, fourth wife, Ka Ho (Cho) Foxx, could not afford the funeral, his friend, Eddy Murphy, paid for a Hollywood-style send-off.

If you’ve never seen an episode of Sanford and Son, here is a snippet, a face-off between Fred and his arch rival, Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page).

That’s a wrap (red, gold, silver, green—your choice) for me this year. Happy holidays everyone. See you next year.

Tracy – Fannie Cranium’s Guide to Irreverent Wisdom

Here’s the source for the photo of Redd Foxx.

About Fannie Cranium

Writing since she could first hold a pen, Tracy Perkins formed her alter ego, "Fannie Cranium" at the suggestion of her husband. Tracy understands smiling makes people wonder what she’s been up to.
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15 Responses to Redd Foxx

  1. kerbey says:

    That was a nice little history lesson. Neat connections in his life. And he was part of the Chitlin’ Circuit, like Sweet Poppa Pigmeat, whom we covered earlier this year. I think we can all agree that he had to die that way. Poetic, eh? Odd coincidence: when we were at happy hour on Friday, I had that theme song in my head for about an hour. The ghost of Fred Sanford was upon me!

  2. Dave says:

    Fannie!!!! I just stumbled here and forgot it was a Tuesday…

    Wow, that sounds like something a drunk person would say…

    No, it’s just a med student preparing for pathology lab, and a cardiology final that’s happening this Friday…

    Anyway, stumbling is awesome.

    And you’ve OUTDONE YOURSELF!

    Another Christmasy name

    and another one buried in there..


    Seems like the material is endless!

    Red Auerbach, Mean Joe Green, Noel Redding (drummer for Hendrix), Otis Redding, Al Green, Oh golly… this is all so fantastic.

    Alright, now time to learn about rheumatic heart disease, mitral valve vegetations, and a ton of other things I have no clue about…

    Catch ya later, Fannie!

  3. ksbeth says:

    i had no idea that he was such a pioneer and i always wondered how he got his name. thanks for filling in a bit more of my brain.

  4. Reblogged this on Fannie Cranium's and commented:

    Here is this month’s contribution to the Blog of Funny Names. Redd Foxx, how well did you know him?

  5. Arto says:

    Nice article! Chock full of good names. Ka Ho (Cho) Foxx??? Love it.

    I hang out at the Red Fox Room here in town on occasion. Spelled differently, but perhaps in tribute regardless.

  6. wdydfae says:

    What a splendid thumbnail! Learned a lot! The post speaks for itself: don’t even have to turn on the blurb generator.

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