We had a lot of odd and interesting things that ended up in the family cabin from other folks cabins. Friends sold and moved away and we got items they didn't want. Oh how fortuitous was that? How else would I have ended up with this Korla Pandit album?

Korla Pandit was an organist who is all but forgotten by most people. If you're around 60 you might recall the name and the image, but not the music. If you're in your 80's to early 90's he was your contemporary and you most likely heard him on the radio or television.

I actually only have vague memories of him. I hear the name "Korla Pandit" and I think turban. Who knew the whole bit with the turban was fake? Not me.

Korla Pandit (September 16, 1921 – October 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.

His first work for radio was in 1938 with the Central Broadcasting Company in Des Moines, Iowa. Arriving in Los Angeles, California by 1939, John Roland Redd donned a turban and performed under the name Juan Rolando. His sister, Frances Redd, was an actress in the film Midnight Shadow (1939), and his turban resembled the one worn by John Criner's character, Prince Alihabad, in Midnight Shadow.

During the mid-1940s, as Juan Rolando, he played the organ on the Los Angeles radio station KMPC, and he performed in various supper clubs and lounges. He also was heard on Jubilee, the program of black jazz and swing bands transcribed by the Special Services of the War Department for airing to WWII servicemen overseas.

In 1944, he married Disney artist Beryl June DeBeeson, and the two reinvented his image, eventually replacing "Juan Rolando" with "Korla Pandit" and fabricating a romantic history for him as a baby born in New Delhi, India to a Brahmin priest and a French opera singer, who traveled from India via England, finally arriving in the United States.

In 1948, while performing in Hollywood at a furrier's fashion show in Tom Breneman's Restaurant, Korla and Beryl met television pioneer Klaus Landsberg who offered Korla his own 15-minute daily television show with the stipulation that he would also provide musical accompaniment for , Bob Clampett's popular puppet show which featured Stan Freberg and Daws Butler as puppeteers and voices. Korla and Beryl's son, Shari Pandit, was born August 5, 1948.

Korla Pandit's Adventures In Music was first telecast on Los Angeles station KTLA in February 1949, and viewers soon became familiar with the musical opening, "The Magnetic Theme." Landsberg insisted that Korla not speak but instead simply gaze dreamily into the camera as he played the Hammond organ and Steinway grand piano, often simultaneously. Following Klaus's directorial and contractual stipulations, Pandit became an overnight star and one of early television's pioneering musical artists.

In 1951, Pandit left KTLA in a deal with Louis D. Snader of Snader Telescriptions, resulting in short films which gave Pandit a national TV audience. However, problems with contract negotiations prompted Snader to replace Pandit with Liberace by 1953, which launched the pianist to fame. Pandit then did a show on KGO in San Francisco.

In the 1970s, when his television popularity waned, Pandit supplemented his income with increased personal appearances at supper clubs, supermarket openings, car agencies, music and department stores, pizza restaurants, lectures, music seminars, private lessons and the theater organ circuit. He made a cameo appearance in Tim Burton's biographical film, Ed Wood (1994), playing himself. (SOURCE: Wikipedia)
I'm trying to imagine how all of this worked. Did he do a fake Indian accent when he made appearances? Exactly how much did he stay in character? I have no idea.

To see more about Korla go to the Korla Pandit website which was run by a fan.



  1. I've long had that youtube video on my favourite list. He really was clever and a true style pioneer.

  2. Great that you found this and enjoyed it!