Redd Holt Day

May 16, 1932 – May 23, 2023

A tribute to the veteran drummer

Isaac “Redd” Holt passed away on May 23, 2023, at the age of 91.

He was born in Rosedale, Mississippi, on May 16, 1932, and later moved to Chicago where he grew up.

Holt began playing drums while in high school, where he soon met pianist Ramsey Lewis and bassist Eldee Young.

After attending college at the Chicago Musical College and Kennedy-King College, and serving in the Army in 1955, Holt and Young joined the Ramsey Lewis Trio, where they stayed for ten years from 1956 to 1966.

During this period, the group gained significant popularity and produced several hit records. Holt’s reliable timekeeping and vibrant contributions were a crucial part of the band’s sound.

Holt also recorded with various artists during this era, including Sonny Stitt, Ken Nordine, James Moody, Lem Winchester, Earl Bostic, bassist Johnny Pate, organist Sarah McLawler, Bill Henderson, Lorez Alexandria, Shelley Moore, on an Eldee Young session, and his own album in 1961 titled “Look Out, Look Out!”

In 1966, Holt and Young left the Ramsey Lewis Trio to form the Young-Holt Unlimited, a trio that also enjoyed popularity for a time. They recorded regularly, and their song “Soulful Strut” became a major hit. The group collaborated with various pianists until 1973.

After the Young-Holt Unlimited disbanded in 1974, Holt led the Redd Holt Unlimited, reunited with Ramsey Lewis in 1983, traveled overseas, and freelanced in the Chicago area. His last recording was in 2009.

Here is a television appearance of the Young-Holt Unlimited with pianist Hysear Don Walker performing “Wack Wack” in 1966.

– Scott Yanow