The 1950s’ mysterious, romantic exotica organist Korla Pandit was born in New Delhi, India in the early 1920s. Born into a higher-caste family, he showed immense musical talent at a young age, and his father sent him to study music at elite prep schools in England. In the early 1940s, he came to the United States to enroll at the University of Chicago.
Actually, that’s all lies. That was the story Pandit always gave, and for decades it was accepted by everyone as his biography. But after his death in 1998, it was discovered that he really was a black guy from St. Louis named John Roland Redd.
Anyway, the rest of his biography is less murky. His big break came when he was hired to do background music for the revival of the radio show Chandu the Magician in 1948. He caught the attention of a producer with KTLA-TV in Los Angeles, who hired him to star in a daily 15-minute show, in which he played the organ and never spoke.
Pandit had already released several singles (including a couple under his previous incarnation, “Juan Rolando”) and a few EPs, but this is his first full-length LP: The Universal Language of Music, Volume 1, from 1954.
- The Banjello
- Clare de Lune
- Stormy Weather
- Over the Rainbow
- Trance Dance
- Theme from Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony
- Aicha’s Dance (Moghul Suite)
- Beyond the Sunset
- Chopin’s Waltz in A Major
I should add that the voice you hear on these tracks (in full 1950s Authoritative Narrator mode), is not Pandit, who never spoke on his shows or at performances, but rather somebody named Dave Ballard. Ballard also was the announcer for Pandit’s TV show, but I haven’t been able to find out much about him. He might be the same guy as this Dave Ballard who was active in 1950s television. IMDB says he’s 7′ 6″!