Skip to Content

Korla Pandit (September 16, 1921October 2, 1998), born John Roland Redd in St. Louis, Missouri, was a musician, composer, pianist, organist, and television pioneer. He was known as "The Godfather Of Exotica".

Arriving in Los Angeles, California in 1940, John Roland Redd donned a turban and performed under the name Juan Rolando.

Marrying a stunning Disney Studios artist, (Beryl June DeBeeson in 1944), the two enhanced his image, eventually replacing Juan Rolando with Korla Pandit, and composing a romantic history for him as a baby born in New Delhi, India to a Brahman priest and a French opera singer, who traveled from India via England, finally arriving in the United States.

In 1948 Korla was contracted as music director to create mood music for radio's latest revival of Chandu the Magician.

At an appearance that same year playing for a furrier's fashion show at Tom Brenaman's Restaurant in Hollywood, Korla and Beryl met television pioneer Klaus Landsberg. Klaus loved Korla's look and offered him his own 15-minute daily television show - which he named Korla Pandit's Adventures In Music - on the Los Angeles station, KTLA, with the stipulation that Korla would also provide musical accompaniment for another television show that starred hand puppets. That live show, Time For Beany, was created by Bob Clampett and featured Stan Freberg and Daws Butler as the puppeteers and voices.

Landsberg insisted that Korla not speak on his own Adventures In Music show, but rather just gaze dreamily into the camera and play the Hammond organ and Steinway grand piano, often simultaneously. Korla followed Klaus's directorial and contractual stipulations, and became an overnight star and one of early television's pioneering musical artists.

In the 1970s, when his television popularity waned, Pandit supplemented his income with increased personal appearances at supperclubs, supermarket openings, car agencies, music and department stores, pizza restaurants, lectures, music seminars, private lessons and the theater organ circuit.

He died in Petaluma, California of a myocardial infarction.

Two years following his death, it was sensationally revealed in an article by writer and associate editor R.J. Smith of L.A. Magazine that Korla Pandit was actually an African-American who had been born in the United States. Smith won a journalism award for his tabloid-style exposé.

Korla Pandit's audio works number over two dozen albums recorded on 78 and 45 rpm records, LP vinyl albums, and CD labels.

His visual works were recorded on early music video type presentations by film pioneer Louis D. Snader of Snader Telescriptions (who eventually replaced Pandit with Liberace, jump-starting the pianist's career).

Text: Wikipedia, Video: YouTube

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

California Mandates Drug-Test Kits at Bars and Nightclubs Starting July 1st. Here’s What to Know

Roofies have been used as accomplices to sexual assault, human trafficking, theft, and other crimes. Bars and nightclub owners hope that providing drug-test kits for their drinks may help their customers feel safe and return more often despite a general dip in the consumption of alcohol in California.

June 21, 2024

‘Not Like Us:’ Kendrick Lamar Unifies Los Angeles In A One-Night-Only Juneteenth Concert, Placing West Coast Unity At the Forefront

“The Pop Out” wasn’t just a showcase of the breadth of talent and music that Los Angeles has to offer—it was a cultural renaissance, a presentation of art bursting with unity and West Coast pride. In a city with so much pain and suffering throughout history, “The Pop Out” showed that community is everything.

These Nayarit-Style, Ceviche-Stuffed ‘MarisCocos’ in Compton Taste Just As Good As They Do On the Beach

Each young coconut is macheted to order and imported from Colima. The tender meat is mixed in with the ceviche and its refreshing coconut water is served in a plastic bag. They are about the size of basketball and weigh five pounds—at least. It's officially summertime in Los Angeles!

June 20, 2024

Ten Architecture Gems to Visit in L.A.: If These Walls Could Talk

Did you know that one of the 11 world's most beautiful post offices in the world is located in Hollywood? And the "skinniest house" in the entire U.S. is located in Long Beach? Plus, Gargoyles. L.A. is for architecture lovers...if you know where to look.

How to Celebrate Juneteenth in Los Angeles

Los Angeles is the place to be this Juneteenth, with a wider variety of free and exciting ways to celebrate, there is something for everyone to attend or participate in.

See all posts