Sanford and Son – An American Classic

Sanford and Son
About the show

From the hilarious one-liners of Fred Sanford to the straight-laced Aunt Esther’s rantings, Sanford and Son produced some of the funniest situations in television history! To this day, the show has remained popular amongst several generations and can be viewed daily on a few different retro TV channels. Let’s face it, today we can’t all agree on much but Sanford and Son bridges the gap and keeps us all laughing no matter what our beliefs are!

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The Origin

The idea for Sandford and Son was taken from a British TV comedy called “Steptoe and Son” which ran on the BBC television network from 1962 to 1965. The characters were similar but the show contained dry British humor not suitable for American audiences. Norman Lear adapted the show in 1972 and it was considered NBC’s attempt to compete with CBS’s “All in the Family”. Steptoe and Son was officially given credit for the idea. You can see this in the rolling credits at the end of each show.

Father and Son

The main character Fred Sanford lost his wife Elizabeth in 1950 and raised his son Lamont on his own. Later, father and son would team up to run a struggling salvage business called Sanford and Son in the poor Watts section of Los Angeles. Their store, which also double as their home, is primarily comprised of useless junk. Occasionally Lamont would find things that had some worth, such as a coffin. That coffin would nearly give Fred a heart attack because he felt it was bad luck and didn’t want it in the house.

Video: Sanford and Son Opening Theme Song
Heart Attacks

Fred Sanford is well known for faking heart attacks. He would frequently scream, “This is the big one, Elizabeth! I’m coming to join ya, honey,” In a sad and ironic twist, while filming the sitcom “The Royal Family” in 1991 with longtime friend Della Reese, Redd suffered a massive heart attack. At first, the cast and crew believed that he was reprising his gag from Sanford and Son but he did in fact die from heart failure

fred sanford gif
The Characters

There is no doubt that Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson put in magnificent performances as Fred and Lamont Sanford but some of the other cast members were equally entertaining. Aunt Esther with her stinging criticism and wit, Grady Wilson with his goofy ramblings, Bubba with his endearing loyalty to Fred …and the list goes on. See a full list of the cast below


Why did Sanford and Son get canceled? Although the show was still enormously popular in it’s last year, the ratings were not high enough to justify bringing it back another season. Other shows, such as police dramas like “The Rockford Files” were very popular and had excellent ratings. In 1977, Sanford and Son was officially canceled.

Sandford and Son gifts
The spinoffs

The role of Fred Sanford was reprised in a short lived show called “Sanford Arms” which had Fred running a boarding house next door. Demond Wilson was offered the role of Lamont but refused due to salary demands. Overall, the show was a dud. Another short-lived spinoff called “Grady” starring the original actor in the Grady role, Whitman May, also proved to be a flop. Redd Foxx approached Demond Wilson about reviving the old magic in 1980 with a show called “Sanford” but Demond refused.

Sandford and Son gifts
Sanford and Son Cast

Redd Foxx – Fred G. Sanford
Demond Wilson – Lamont Sanford
LaWanda Page – Aunt Esther Anderson
Don Bexley – Bubba Bexley
Whitman Mayo – Grady Wilson
Nathaniel Taylor – Rollo Larson
Lynn Hamilton – Donna Harris
Hal Williams – Officer Smitty Smith
Howard Platt – Officer Hoppy Hopkins
Gregory Sierra – Julio Fuentes
Raymond Allen – Uncle Woodrow Woody Anderson
Pat Morita – Ah Chew
Noam Pitlik – Officer Swanny Swanhauser
Marlene Clark – Janet Lawson
Slappy White – Melvin
Nancy Kulp – May Hopkins
Arnold Johnson – Hutch

Sanford and Son Fun Facts
  • The opening theme song to the show was written by the legendary producer/musician Quincy Jones. The name of the song is “The Streetbeater”
  • Fred Sanford was born and raised in St Louis, MO
  • Aunt Esther is Fred’s sister-in-law
  • Sanford and Son’s popularity was enough to drive “The Brady Bunch” off the air in 1975
  • During the 1973-1974 season, Redd Foxx walked off the set over a salary dispute. His character was written out of the show for 6 episodes. The story-line explained that Fred was in St Louis attending a funeral. His longtime friend Grady Wilson filled in at the Junkyard while also taking care of Lamont
  • At it’s peak, Sanford and Son made it to #2 in the Neilson Ratings. “All in the Family” remained at #1
  • In 1977, rival network ABC offered Redd Foxx an undisclosed large sum of money to host “The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour”.
  • The Sanford and Son truck is a classic Ford F1. Although it was considered a hunk of junk in the 70s, it has become a sought-after collector’s vehicle today
Classic Car Apparel

3 responses to “Sanford and Son – An American Classic”

  1. […] her husband Desi Arnaz, instead of Denning. It was a hard sell but Lucy pulled it off and the show was on it’s way. I Love Lucy began production in […]

  2. Mark Akers Avatar
    Mark Akers

    Glad I have the entire series on DVD. Seen them all countless times and I still love watching it and laughing like a madman! Best show ever IMHO!

  3. Tim Beeker Avatar
    Tim Beeker

    I will never, EVER, forget the scene about Gorilla cookies with aunt Esther and Fred.

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