Red came to Los Angeles with a road show in the late 1930’s and remained, joining the thriving Central Avenue jazz scene. He worked with such artists as Louis Armstong, Billie Holiday, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Errol Garner, Lionel Hampton, Nat “King” Cole, Buck Clayton, Ben Webster, Dexter Gordon; but the most memorable highlight of this era was working with the incomparable Art Tatum.
His composition ‘Pastel’ recorded by Errol Garner was a commercial success, as was his hit tune ‘Primrose Lane’, later used as the theme on ‘The Smith Family’.
In 1952, Red began working on ‘The Life of Riley’, TV series. Subsequently he joined the CBS staff, for eight years and NBC staff, for five years. He has also done countless movie scores, both as a player and orchestrator.
Red produced a number of his own albums and many single records and was one of the most recorded bassists in the history of music. By 1956 he’d recorded over 5000 sides and stopped counting and was on so many hit records, colleagues called him, “The Hitmaker”. His 1957 Pioneer album ‘Callender Speaks Low’, was the first time jazz tuba was used as a central melodic instrument for an entire album.
Beginning with Charles Mingus, his first bass student, Red taught throughout his career and was co-founder of the Wind College, a music school, where he taught bass and tuba.
In 1986, Red published his autobiography ‘Unfinished Dream’, co-authored by Elaine Cohen. The book is a revealing window into the musical world of Red Callender, who has left us with a lasting musical legacy.
We are sorry to report that Red passed away 3-8-92.