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Merl Saunders Biography

Home > Music > S > Saunders, Merl > Biography

Born: 1934/02/14
Birth Place: San Mateo, California, USA
Died: 2008/10/24
Years Active: 1970s-2006
Genres: Jazz, Pop, Rock

Merl Saunders was born on February 14, 1934 and was an American musician who played the piano, keyboards, and the Hammond B-3 console organ. Saunders was born in San Mateo, California, and showed an interest in music at an early age. Saunders came to prominence in the 1970s when he began collaborating with Jerry Garcia; the two musicians began playing together at a local night club in 1971. Saunders was known to sit in with the Grateful Dead and play with them from time to time, in addition to recording three albums with Garcia, who would later go on to call themselves The Legion of Mary. The duo disbanded in 1975. Saunders went on to form his own band, Merl Saunders and Friends, which included still playing dates with Garcia, as well as Mike Bloomfield, David Grisman, Michael Hinton, Tom Fogerty, Vassar Clements, Kenneth Nash, John Kahn and Sheila E.. He also collaborated with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart in the band High Noon.

In 1990 Saunders released his new Age album, “Blues From the Rainforest,” a collaboration with Jerry Garcia and Muruga Booker, which was followed up by “Fiesta Amazonica, It's in the Air,” and

“Save the Planet so We'll Have Someplace to Boogie.” Over the course of his Career, Saunders has worked with various musicians, such as Paul Pena, Bonnie Raitt, Phish, Widespread Panic, Miles Davis, and B. B. King, and runs his own record label, Summertone Records. Saunders' versatile musical abilities have earned him respect amongst his peers and put him in high demand to collaborate with other artists. Saunders' has also been involved in a number of musical scores for various television shows, such as The New Twilight Zone, Nash Bridges, and the movies Fritz the Cat and Steelyard Blues. Saunders has also been involved in a number of charity organizations over the years and has been an active member of his community, promoting change through music. In 2002, Saunders suffered from a stroke that paralyzed one side of his body and curtailed his musical career, he died in San Francisco, California on October 24, 2008, as a result of complications related to the stroke.