Foxx was born John Elroy Sanford in St. Louis on December 9, 1922. While still in his teens, he became a professional performer, working as both a comedian and actor on the so-called "chitlin circuit" of Black theaters and nightclubs; he formulated his stage name by combining an old nickname, "Red" (given because of his ruddy complexion), with the surname of baseball's Jimmie Foxx. After cutting a handful of explicit blues records in the mid-'40s, beginning in 1951 he often teamed with fellow comic Slappy White, a partnership that lasted through 1955.
Foxx was performing at Los Angeles' Club Oasis when a representative from the tiny Dooto label contacted him about cutting an album; the comedian agreed, and was paid $25 to record Laff of the Party, the first of over 50 albums of Foxx's racy anecdotes. An onslaught of Dooto releases followed, among them over half a dozen other Laff of the Party sets, The Sidesplitter, The New Race Track, Sly Sex, and New Fugg. His records were poorly distributed, and offered primarily in Black neighborhoods; when they did appear in white record stores, they were sold under the counter. In the 1960s, Foxx signed to the MF label; his routines became even more explicit, as evidenced by titles like Laff Your Ass Off, Huffin' and a Puffin', I Am Curious Black, 3 or 4 Times a Day, and Mr. Hot Pants. After a brief tenure on King, he signed to Loma, a division of Frank Sinatra's Reprise imprint; with records like Foxx-A-Delic and 'Live' Las Vegas, he became one of the very first performers to use four-letter words on major-label releases.
As the 1960s wore on and longstanding cultural barriers began to crumble, Foxx's audience expanded, and he made a number of television appearances. In 1970, he made his film debut in Ossie Davis' #Cotton Comes to Harlem; when the film became a surprise hit, Foxx became a hot talent, and soon signed to star in #Sanford and Son, a retooled sitcom version of the British television hit #Steptoe and Son. The series, which starred Foxx as junk dealer Fred Sanford, premiered in 1972 and became a huge hit, running through 1977; he also continued recording, issuing You Gotta Wash Your Ass, a live set taped at the Apollo Theater, in 1976. The short-lived programs #Sanford, #The Redd Foxx Show, and #The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour followed; additionally, he starred in the 1976 feature #Norman, Is That You?, and became a Las Vegas headliner.
By the early '80s, Foxx's career hit the skids; his difficult personality made him an unpopular commodity around Hollywood, and a number of divorces and ill-advised business decisions left him bankrupt. By the end of the decade, however, his influence on the new breed of African-American comedians was openly acknowledged, and in 1989 Eddie Murphy tapped him to co-star in his black-themed crime-noir film #Harlem Nights. Although the film flopped, Foxx's career was renewed, and in 1991 he began work on a new sitcom, #The Royal Family; tragically, he suffered a heart attack on the series' set and died on October 11, 1991. Still, even in death Foxx's name remained synonymous with off-color comments; on an episode of the hit show #Seinfeld broadcast several years later, Jason Alexander's character George was chastised for the "curse toast" he delivered at a friend's wedding, prompting an exasperated Jerry to exclaim "You were like a Redd Foxx record up there!" ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
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