Red Callender

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Red Callender
Background information
Birth nameGeorge Sylvester Callender
Born(1916-03-06)March 6, 1916
Haynesville, Virginia, U.S.
DiedMarch 8, 1992(1992-03-08) (aged 76)
Saugus, California
Instrument(s)Double bass, tuba

George Sylvester "Red" Callender (March 6, 1916 – March 8, 1992)[1] was an American string bass and tuba player. He is perhaps best known as a jazz musician, but worked with an array of pop, rock and vocal acts as a member of The Wrecking Crew, a group of first-call session musicians in Los Angeles. Callender also co-wrote the 1959 top-10 hit "Primrose Lane".


Callender was born in Haynesville, Virginia, United States.[1] In the early 1940s, he played in the Lester and Lee Young band, and then formed his own trio.[1] In the 1940s, Callender recorded with Nat King Cole, Erroll Garner, Charlie Parker, Wardell Gray, Dexter Gordon, Uffe Baadh and many others.[1] After a period spent leading a trio in Hawaii, Callender returned to Los Angeles, becoming one of the first black musicians to work regularly in the commercial studios, including backing singer Linda Hayes on two singles. He made his recording debut at 19 with Louis Armstrong's band.[2] However, he later turned down offers to work with Duke Ellington's Orchestra and the Louis Armstrong All-Stars.[3]

On his 1957 Crown LP Speaks Low, Callender was one of the earliest modern jazz tuba soloists. Keeping busy up until his death, some of the highlights of the bassist's later career include recording with Art Tatum and Jo Jones (1955–1956) for the Tatum Group, playing with Charles Mingus at the 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival, working with James Newton's avant-garde woodwind quintet (on tuba), and performing as a regular member of the Cheatham's Sweet Baby Blues Band. He also reached the top of the British pop charts as a member of B. Bumble and the Stingers. In November 1964, he was introduced and highlighted in performance with entertainer Danny Kaye, in a duet on the Fred Astaire introduced George and Ira Gershwin song, "Slap That Bass", for Kaye's CBS-TV variety show.

Callender died of thyroid cancer at his home in Saugus, California.[4]


As leader[edit]

  • 1956: Swingin' Suite (Modern)
  • 1957: Red Callender Speaks Low (Crown)[5]
  • 1958: The Lowest (MetroJazz)
  • 1973: Basin Street Brass (Legend)
  • 1984: Night Mist Blues (Hemisphere)
  • ¿?  : Red Callender Sextet & Fourtette[6]

As sideman[edit]

With Gregg Allman Band

With Patti Austin

With The Beach Boys

With Harry Belafonte

With Louis Bellson

With Judy Carmichael

  • Two Handed Stride (Progressive, 1982)
  • Pearls (Jazzology, 1985)

With Benny Carter

With John Carter

With Buddy Collette

With Ry Cooder

With Sam Cooke

With Willie Dixon

With Donovan

With Maynard Ferguson

With Dizzy Gillespie

With Johnny Hodges

With Paul Horn

With Plas Johnson

With B.B. King

  • Blues in My Heart (Crown Records, 1962)
  • L.A. Midnight (ABC Records, 1972)

With Peggy Lee

With Rickie Lee Jones

With Kate & Anna McGarrigle

With Maria Muldaur

  • Waitress in a Donut Shop (Reprise Records, 1974)

With Randy Newman

With Gene Parsons

With Pete Rugolo

With Mavis Rivers and Shorty Rogers

With Art Tatum and Ben Webster

With James Taylor

With Gerald Wilson

With Betty Wright

  • Wright Back At You (Epic Records, 1983)


  • Callender, Red; Cohen, Elaine (1985). Unfinished Dream: The Musical World of Red Callender. Introduction by Stanley Dance. Quartet Books. ISBN 978-0704325074.


  1. ^ a b c d Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Who's Who of Jazz (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 73/4xx. ISBN 0-85112-580-8.
  2. ^ Hudson, Berkley (10 March 1992). "Red Callender; Jazz Bass Player and Tuba Virtuoso". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ "Red Callender: A Very Quiet Giant". The Syncopated Times. 31 October 2020. Retrieved 11 November 2020.
  4. ^ "Red Callender Dies; Jazz Bassist Was 76". The New York Times. 11 March 1992.
  5. ^ "Crown Album Discography, Part 1 (1957-1959)". Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  6. ^ "Red Callender | Album Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved February 2, 2020.

External links[edit]