Holt began playing drums as a teenager while living in Chicago, where he played in an ensemble with future collaborators Ramsey Lewis and Eldee Young. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1955 and was stationed in Germany, where he played with a military band, and upon his return worked with Lewis, alongside Young, from 1956-1966, in addition to recording with Earl Bostic and James Moody near the end of the 1950s. In 1966 Young and Holt split with Lewis and formed their own group, Young-Holt Unlimited, which went on to achieve commercial success as an instrumental soul band. After the group's dissolution in 1974 Holt continued on as Redd Holt Unlimited, playing under this name into the 1990s, and worked in jazz education in Illinois. He founded the Gumption Artist Workshop, which was active from 1980 to 1985, and played internationally, including at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival and in Singapore in the late 1980s and early 1990s.