Nipsey Russell was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1918. He got his start in Rock and Roll Review and other music revues in the 1950s. In the 1960s Russell achieved his first major role as Officer Anderson in Car 54, Where Are You? (1961). After being on the show for a year, Russell was a mainstay on variety shows, appearing on Laugh-In, The Dean Martin Show (1965), and the Jackie Gleason Show, among many others. Russell also appeared on many small shows in the 1960s as an always unique personality who would liven up almost any program. As the 1970s approached, Nipsey Russell became a popular game show panelist, appearing on To Tell The Truth, Match Game PM (1975), and many others. Nipsey was known as television’s poet laureate on such shows as the Tonight Show and many other popular talk shows of the day.
Nipsey’s film roles were remarkably scarce, but he will always be remembered for his role of the Tin Man in the 1978 remake of the Wizard of Oz, The Wiz (1978). The movie was a box office failure, but since that time the movie has been considered a cult classic. But Russell’s skill cannot be judged solely by his television and movie appearances. He was an accomplished actor and singer on stage and had a strong presence on Broadway for many years.