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Wednesday, August 17, 2011


In the 1979 comedy, “The Jerk,” starring Steve Martin, his character Navin, who “was born a poor black child” never could keep the beat while listening to his adoptive black family’s music. Then, lying on his bed, listening to the radio, he hears a very different kind of music, honky music, and notices his feet are keeping the rhythm perfectly. When someone comes in to change the station, Navin yells, “Don't touch that radio! Don't touch it! Turn it up! Turn it up! I've never heard music like this before! It speaks to me!” The same thing happened to me when I heard the music of Korla Pandit.

I discovered Korla Pandit by learning that he did most of the soundtrack for the live TV puppet show, “Time for Beany”---the first show I remember on television, that debuted in 1949, the year I was born.

John Roland Redd, an African American, was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1921. This musician, composer, pianist and organist began work on the radio in 1938 in Iowa; eventually migrating west to Los Angeles where he reinvented himself with the help of his new wife, Beryl June DeBeeson, who, incidentally was born in my home state of Washington, in Bremerton. He donned a turban, changed his name to Korla Pandit, and made up a romantic history for himself, being born in New Delhi, India to a Brahmin priest and a French opera singer.

Beginning in 1949 and into the early Fifties, Korla Pandit had his own TV show, five days a week. Always wearing a turban, he never spoke on the show, but instead gazed into the camera as he played the Hammond organ and Steinway grand piano, often at the same time. His dreamy gaze was such that many accused him of hypnotizing his television audience. He was replaced by Liberace in 1953. But his music continued until his death in 1998.

I’ve now purchased and downloaded many of Korla Pandit’s songs, and enjoyed listening to the CD on a recent road trip with my family. As we drove between scores of huge power windmills in Illinois, his song, “The Hypnotist,” was playing. The awesome soundtrack with the scenery inspired me tremendously! “Don’t touch that CD player! Don’t touch it! Turn it up! I’ve never heard music like this before! It speaks to me!”

Here is a YouTube video of Korla Pandit playing “Miserlou.”

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