Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson: What Happened to Fred Sanford and His Son?

NBC’s hit sitcom “Sanford and Son” was at the peak of its popularity when it came to an abrupt end in 1977. The chemistry between its two main stars was key to the series success. But what happened to them after the split?

Running from 1972 – 1977, “Sanford and Son” was part of a generation of TV shows that reflected on social issues of the time from a comedic perspective, in what came to be known as TV comedy’s New Wave.

African-American comedy pioneer Redd Foxx played ill-tempered junkman Fred Sanford, who operates a salvage shop in South Central L.A. alongside his son Lamont, played by Demond Wilson.

The age and generational differences between father and son was great material for laughs, and this, in addition to Foxx’s mastering of timing and physical humor thanks to his 30 years of experience as a stage comedian, created an iconic show.

At the end of the series’ sixth season, Foxx accepted an offer to host a variety show on ABC and quit. After the showrunners refused to give Wilson a raise to continue as the sitcom’s sole lead, he left as well, and the show was terminated.

More than 40 years have passed since “Sanford and Sons” final season was aired. This is what became of its two main stars since then.

REDD FOXX (FRED SANFORD)

Foxx move to ABC to host “The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour” soon proved to be a poor decision, as the show didn’t make it past a month.

Less than three years after he left “Sanford and Sons” he returned to NBC to reprise his role in the series that made him famous in the sequel show “Sanford.”

While Foxx was still a great lead, it wasn’t the same without Wilson – who chose not to be part of the sequel – and the original supporting cast, and the project came to an end after two short seasons.

After Foxx’s failed attempt on regaining his popularity on the small screen, he slowly disappeared from the spotlight until 1989, when he was making headlines once again, but not for the best reasons.

That year, Foxx lost all his fortune after the IRS seized all his valuable possessions in compensation for not having paid his income taxes from 1983 to 1986. This was a devastating experience from which he was never going to recover.

In 1991, Foxx was shooting what he hoped was to be his comeback comedy series, titled “The Royal Family,” when he suffered a heart attack which caused his death that night. He was 69 years old.

Nowadays, Foxx is part of Las Vegas urban folk since those who owned the home he lost to the IRS after him claimed to feel his presence in the property. The house is now included in several Las Vegas “ghost tours.”

DEMOND WILSON (LAMONT SANFORD)

After departing from “Sanford and Sons,” Wilson was cast as leading star for a CBS sitcom titled “Baby, I’m Back,” which lasted only 13 episodes.

Even though he landed a couple of roles in other sitcoms all the way through the 80s, Wilson never had the success he did playing Lamont, and, anyway, he was starting to feel more focused in another aspect of himself.

Debuting in Broadway at age 4, Wilson had dedicated his entire life to show business up until 1984 when he became an ordained minister, something that he had promised to do since he was 13 years old.

Following a decade of ministerial work, Wilson founded Restoration House in 1995, a home for former prison inmates that were working on their reinsertion into society.

Despite dedicating most of his time to his religious and social work, Wilson never quit acting completely, and he remains proud on the groundbreaking role he had as an African-American actor with the success on “Sanford and Son.”

NATHANIEL TAYLOR (ROLLO)

People who still remember “Sanford and Son” were sad to learn of the recent death of actor Nathaniel Taylor, who played the recurring character Rollo in the series.

Taylor passed away in Los Angeles on February 27 after suffering a heart attack. Rollo was a sidekick to Wilson’s character, an ex-convict that didn’t have the trust of the old man Sanford. Rollo had appearances in 32 episodes of the show.

Although he had other roles and later became an acting teacher, Taylor never complained about been mostly remembered as Rollo. 

“It was a time and an era — just to be on TV as a black man, it was an honor. It was an honor for people to remember him,” his son Kaedi told the New York Times.