click to enlarge
Tony Saunders’ life story could be the script to a hit movie. Son of legendary musician Merl Saunders, Tony’s life has been a musical adventure. As a child he was taught piano by Herbie Hancock, and for his tenth birthday he received an electric organ as a gift from Sly Stone. Growing up around his dad and the Fantasy Records family of artists he was constantly surrounded by music royalty, including famed record and film executive Saul Zaentz. His passion for the bass guitar began while sitting in on recording sessions with musicians Anthony Davis, who played with Walter Hawkins, and Lee Miles of Miles Davis fame. “I got to see them both in the studio on a project my dad produced. These guys had a feel that drew me to the bass. That’s all I wanted after seeing them play.”
Tony graduated from the prestigious Conservatory of Music in San Francisco as a piano player, but soon after began honing his skills on the bass. He was influenced by the sounds of James Jamison, Stanley Clark, Jack Cassidy, Marcus Miller Ralphe Armstrong and others. Tom Fogarty of Creedence Clearwater Revival gave Tony his first bass guitar. Chuck Rainey and John Kahn took an interest in Tony, giving him bass lessons and a legacy to live up to. By the time he was 17 he played his first gig with Jerry Garcia and his dad in the legendary Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia Band. “In 1967 my dad met Jerry Garcia, and boy did my life change.”
Tony’s musical journey has continued on from that era through today. He has played and recorded with an astounding list of great musical talents, including Eric Clapton, David Crosby, Joe Sample, Chaka Khan, Ringo Starr, Bo Diddley, The Hawkins Family, and many others. “This just touches the edge of who I have been blessed to play with”, says Saunders. Tony has played on hundreds of albums, won two Emmy Awards, written award winning movie scores, commercial jingles, and soundtracks.
Tony has 2 CD’s out on San Francisco Records. His latest one, “Appaloosa,” features Grammy winning singers Tony Lindsay, Howard Hewett and Bill Champlin. The rest of the stellar cast includes Tower Of Powers’ Tom Politzer, Paul Hardcastle’s Rock Hendricks, Train background singer Sakai, and a host of Tony’s talented friends. Lawrence Matthews sings “What Is This,” a tribute to the late Bishop Walter Hawkins. The remaining 12 songs are all special in their own way. Tony’s writing and arranging are featured on all of this amazing CD.
Tony continues to record his own projects and produces for an impressive list of talent at his state of the art San Rafael, CA studio. “Taking artist’ to the edge of greatness is what I believe in”