Skip to Content

Korla Pandit ~ LA Legend

1:28 PM PDT on July 25, 2007

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

Already a user?Log in

Thanks for reading!

Register to continue

Become a Member

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from L.A. TACO

We Are Almost At Our Goal! Become a Member of L.A. TACO Now!

Memberships start at $5.95 and help us stay alive in this wild new journalism landscape. For the price of a few tacos a month, you can help keep L.A.'s only taco, news, and culture site stay spinning and churning out features about the real Los Angeles. We are 60% to our goal!

February 29, 2024

Ten (Mostly) Recognizable ‘Repo Man’ Locations You Can Visit 40 Years Later

The original film somehow managed to cohesively fuse weathered, jaded repo men, L.A.’s burgeoning punk scene, UFO cultists, generically-labeled food items, and nuclear proliferation into a dark comedy that is both a product of its time and yet feels somewhat timeless.

February 29, 2024

Burglar Steals Safe From East Hollywood Mexican Restaurant, Runs Up $80,000 In Damages and Stolen Gear

The burglar was wearing a white hoodie and spray-painted the lens of the security cameras. Insurance will only cover $20,000. The owner of El Zarape Melrose says he doesn’t know if this was personal or just a delinquent act by a stranger: “I’m sad, I don’t know how I’m going to do it.”

February 27, 2024

Baldwin Park Rapper Lefty Gunplay is Playin’ for Keeps

With witty lyrics, Holladay experiments with storytelling of his times in prison and on the gritty streets of the San Gabriel Valley. He is one of the biggest names in the new L.A. rap scene and the conversation about being one of this generation's biggest Latino rappers. 

February 27, 2024

Pioneering Ethical Meat Butcher Jered Standing Dies at 44

On February 22, Standing, the 44-year-old owner of one L.A.’s most popular butcher shops, Standing’s Butchery, died, according to the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner.

February 26, 2024
See all posts