Born: March 6, 1916 | Died: March 8, 1992 Primary Instrument: Bass, acoustic
George Sylvester “Red” Callender was born in Haynesville, VA and at age 3 his family moved to Atlantic City, NJ. He first studied alto sax, then tuba, and then bass. After graduation in 1932, he moved to New York City. A tour of Canada and the west coast with Blanche Thompson and the Brownskin Models brought him to Los Angeles in 1936, where he remained. He played with a few local bands, and did arranging and teaching. Charles Mingus was one of his first students. His first recording date was in 1937 with Louis Armstrong, “Sunny Side of the Street” and “Once in a While.” By 1956 he had recorded over 5,000 sides, acquiring the distinction of being the most recorded bass player in the L. A. Musicians Union. His composition, “Pastel,” recorded by Erroll Garner was a commercial success, as was his hit tune “Primrose Lane,” recorded by Jerry Wallace. Red was the second black to be hired in a TV studio band for “The Life of Riley” show. (Buddy Collette was the first.) His album, “Callender Speaks Low,” was the first to feature tuba as a solo jazz instrument. Red played on many of the most popular TV shows, as well as many movie soundtracks. It would be easier to list those musicians with whom he did not play or record. Red continued to be very active, arranging, teaching, composing, touring, club dates and recording until shortly before his death.