Born on December 1, 1940 in Peoria, Illinois….Pryor grew up in his grandmother’s brothel….where his mother, Gertrude L. (Thomas), practiced prostitution. His father, LeRoy “Buck Carter” Pryor (June 7, 1915 – September 27, 1968) was a former boxer and hustler. After his alcoholic mother abandoned him when he was 10….Pryor was raised primarily by his grandmother Marie Carter….who was a tall, violent woman who would beat him for any of his eccentricities. Pryor was one of four children raised in his grandmother’s brothel….and was sexually abused at age seven….for he was expelled from school at the age of 14.
His first professional performance was playing drums at a night club. Pryor served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1960….but spent virtually the entire stint in an army prison…..as according to a 1999 profile about Pryor in The New Yorker…. he was incarcerated for an incident that occurred while stationed in Germany….when angered that a white soldier was overly amused at the racially charged sections of Douglas Sirk’s movie Imitation of Life (1959)….as Pryor and some other black soldiers beat and stabbed him, though not fatally.