Korla Pandit’s invented life was a close resemblance to John Roland Redd’s real life. John Roland Redd was born into a musical family of 7 children. He got his spirituality from his father, who was a Baptist minister. Korla Pandit’s mother was of Creole descent. Most important of all, his talent was real. When interviewed, his relatives recalled that when he was at the tender age of 3, John Rowland Redd could learn a song once and memorize it.
Brian Kehew, who worked with Korla Pandit in the 1990s, said that Korla was the definition of a myth. Kehew credited the success of Korla Pandit’s invented story to the fact that there was some truth in it. Brian never questioned the idea since Korla paint not only played the part but also looked the part. Korla Pandit looked exactly like an Indian man. Brian Kehew was one of the few individuals who managed to get a glimpse of Korla Pandit’s straightened, jet-black hair unbound by a turban.
Fascinated by the east, Americans gladly accepted Korla Pandit’s mystical interpretations and charming personality due to the little knowledge of Indian customs and culture. To a great extent, American’s exposure to Indian customs and culture was from film and TV. This is probably why nobody challenged Korla Pandit’s Fabulous story. However, Korla Pandit was clearly not comfortable when Indian fans requested to spend some time with him after his shows. There were many people who passed as white men in order to achieve success before John Roland Redd. John Roland Redd just passed as a turban-wearing Indian man. In hindsight, Korla Pandit’s claim that he was Hindu was clearly a hoax since Hindus don’t donn turbans. While Sikhs do, their turbans do not incorporate jewels (nor do their evening gowns or mattresses).
Korla Pandit was just one of John Roland Redd’s incarnations, and it was not the first time he had passed himself as something other than African American. When he arrived in LA, John Roland Redd started to play R&B and jazz, but it quickly dawned on him that he could earn more money by focusing on Latin tunes such as Juan Rolando. He passed himself as a Mexican and was able to get into the whites-only musicians Union. Soon after, he played in lounges and supper clubs, on top of a show providing fantastic background music for the radio show Chandu the Magician. He played for the cowboy singing group Sons of Pioneers by Roy Rogers as Cactus Pandit. However, when he adopted the persona of Korla Pandit, John Roland Redd had finally stumbled upon the perfect formula. At the time, the organ was not a popular instrument and was associated with roller skating rinks and soap operas. Korla pandit managed to make it magical and sexy.
According to filmmaker Christiansen, John Roland Redd really became Korla Pandit. He was less of John Roland Redd and more of Korla Pandit. His transformation into Korla Pandit influenced his music and not the other way around. John Ronald Redd’s wife, Beryl June DeBeenson and Disney animator was the architect behind his mystery and final transformation. In 1948, John Roland Redd and his wife met Klaus Landsberg, a TV producer, at Tom Brenenman’s Restaurant. Klaus Landsberg offered “Korla” a daily television show, which would make him famous. Korla Pandit only had two requirements: that he never speak on camera, and would provide music for the puppet show–Time for Beany.