Born in Ashland City, Tennessee. While still a child, his family moved to Louisville, Kentucky. At an early age, he learned to play several musical instruments such as the banjo, piano, fiddle and guitar. He changed his first name to Redd because of his red hair and complexion. His talent was not only as a musician but also as a songwriter beginning by writing a little jingle for a Louisville car dealer's commercial.
In 1937, he joined the Golden West Cowboys band headed by Pee Wee King with lead singer Eddy Arnold. Redd served in the South Pacific in World War II attaining the rank of sergeant. He wrote "Soldier's Last Letter" while in still in the South Pacific, which became a hit record in 1944 for Ernest Tubb. After he returned to the U.S. he again hooked up with King's band, this time as the lead singer since Arnold went solo. Redd teamed up with King in writing many top 10 country hits starting with "The Tennessee Waltz", proclaimed by Governor Frank Clement in 1965 as the Tennessee state song; and "You Belong To Me". He appeared in several movies with Pee Wee King, including Gold Mine in the Sky (1938), Ridin' the Outlaw Trail (1951) and The Rough, Tough West (1952), the last two starring Charles Starrett as the Durango Kid. In 1961, Redd and King appeared in the movie, Hoedown. In 1950–51, Redd signed with King Records as a solo vocalist.
Redd also wrote songs that would be made famous by other artists. He provided Jim Reeves with "That's a Sad Affair" (Reeves also did "You Belong to Me") and Moon Mullican with "Downstream" and "When Love Dies Where Does it Go" in the mid 1950s. "Tennessee Waltz" went on to be a massive hit for Patti Page and was also covered by Roy Acuff, the Louvin Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley and many others. "You Belong to Me" also went on to become a major standard. The lesser known "Slow Poke" was covered by Hawkshaw Hawkins.
In 1972, he was inducted as a charter member into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
On August 2, 2003, Redd died at 80 at Baptist Hospital East in Louisville from complications of injuries due to a fall in the early 1990s.