picture of Merl Saunders
Merl Saunders
Merl (* 1934) attended Polytechnic High School in San Francisco. He gained notice in the 1970s when he began collaborating with Jerry Garcia, with whom he had begun playing in 1971 at a small Fillmore Street nightclub called The Matrix. He sat in with the Grateful Dead, and co-founded the Saunders/Garcia Band which produced three albums, and which became the Legion of Mary with the addition of Martin Fierro (sax) in 1974. It disbanded the following year, but he and Garcia continued to collaborate in the band Reconstruction during 1979, collaborating with Ed Neumeister (trombone), Gaylord Birch (drums) and John Kahn (bass).
 
He led his own band as Merl Saunders and Friends, playing live 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 he released the world music and New Age classic album Blues From the Rainforest, a collaboration with Jerry Garcia and Muruga Booker. This led to the release of a video which chronicled Saunders' journey to the Amazon, and the subsequent albums Fiesta Amazonica, It's in the Air, and Save the Planet so We'll Have Someplace to Boogie. One of the songs from Blues From the Rainforest was used as part of the soundtrack for the TV series Baywatch. Saunders continued to perform with the Rainforest Band for the next ten years.
 
Saunders worked with musicians Paul Pena, Bonnie Raitt, Phish, Widespread Panic, Miles Davis, and B. B. King. He also recorded with the Dinosaurs, a "supergroup" of first-generation Bay Area rock musicians.
 
Merl worked with the Grateful Dead on the theme music for the 1985 TV show The New Twilight Zone. As musical director he completed 2 1/2 season of the show . He also worked on the TV series Nash Bridges, and worked on several soundtracks for movies, including Fritz the Cat and Steelyard Blues. He was production co-ordinator for the Grammy Awards for two years, and for the Grammy's Greatest Moments TV special. He also supplied the music for the computer animation video Headcandy: Sidney's Psychedelic Adventure.
 
He worked with several charitable organizations such as the Seva Foundation, the Rex Foundation, the Rainforest Action Network, and the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic, and headlined the Haight Street Music Fair for 24 consecutive years. He has been granted a Doctorate of Music by Unity College, in Unity, Maine.
 
In 2002, Saunders suffered from a stroke that paralyzed one side of his body and curtailed his musical career, and he died in San Francisco, California, on the morning of October 24, 2008.
 
from Wikipedia
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Discography
Soul Grooving
America 30 AM 6093
recorded 1968
Merl Saunders, organ
Ray Shanklin, alto sax
Eddie Moore, drums
Bill Elliot, drums
Jimmy Daniels, guitar
Johnny Bishop, guitar
Ray Shanklin Big Band
John White
Mainstream Records MRL 330
released 1971
John White, guitar
Sonny Red, alto sax
Hadley Caliman, tenor sax
Jock Williams, trombone
John Wilmath, trumpet
Merl Saunders, piano, organ
Dale Smith, bass
Terry Hensley*, bass
J. Burr, congas
Phil Wilson*, drums
Robert Williams, vocals
Heavy Turbulence
Fantasy F-8421
recorded February 1972
Merl Saunders, organ, piano, synthesizer, vocals
Martin Fierro, sax, flute
Arthur Adams, guitar
Billy Fender, guitar
Chris Hayes, guitar
Tony Saunders, bass
Paul Humphrey, drums
Larry Vann, drums
Sheila Escovedo, congas
Fire Up
Fantasy 9421
recorded in Berkeley, CA/USA
released 1973
Merl Saunders, organ, piano, synthesizer, vocals
Jerry Garcia, guitar, vocals
Tom Fogerty, guitar
Mike Howell, guitar
John Kahn, bass
Chuck Rainey, bass
Bill Vitt, drums
Christopher Parker, drums
Bill Kruetzman, drums
Gaylord Birch, drums
Bill Sommers, percussion
Ken Nash, percussion
Walter Hawkins, vocals
Merl Saunders
Fantasy 9460
released 1974
Merl Saunders, organ, piano, clavinet, vocals
Martin Fierro, sax
Martin Fierro, flute
Joel Cohen, guitar
Billy Fender, guitar
Bill Upchurch, bass
John Kahn, bass
Tony Saunders, vocals, bass
King Errisson, congas
Gaylord Birch, drums
Eccleston W. Wainwright, drums
Jimmy Nelson, drums
Kenneth Nash, percussion
Michael Howell, vocals
You Can Leave Your Hat On
Fantasy F-9503
recorded September - October 1976 in Berkeley, CA/USA
Merl Saunders, organ, piano, synthesizer, vocals
Jerry Garcia, guitar
Tom Fogerty, guitar
John Kahn, bass
Bill Vitt, drums
The Hawkins Singers
Do I Move You
Crystal Clear Records CCS 5006br> recorded feburary 1979 in Berkeley, CA/USA
Merl Saunders, Hammond B-3 organ, synthesizer, vocals
Martin Fierro, sax, flute
Tony Saunders, bass
Pee Wee Ellis, tenor sax
Martin Fierro, alto sax, flute
Mark Isham, trumpet
Carl Lockett, guitar
Kenneth Nash, percussion
Ed Neumeister, trombone
Larry Vann, drums
Blues from the Rainforest
Sumertone S2CD-01
released 1990
Merl Saunders, synthesizer, organ
Jerry Garcia, guitar
Eddie Moore, percussion
Muruga Booker, percussion
Shakti, vocals
Karen Baker, vocals
Fiesta Amazonica
Sumertone S2CD-2183
recorded in San Francisco, CA/USA
Merl Saunders, keyboards, organ, piano, vocals
Vernon "Ice" Black, guitar
Jerry Garcia, guitar
Steve Kimock, guitar
Chuk Fowler, guitar
Jim Hankins, guitar
Sir Earl Gri, guitar
Piers Lawrence, guitar
Bob Weir, guitar
John Handy, alto sax
Norbert Stachel, flute, soprano sax
Vince Welnick, synthesizer, vocals
Tony Saunders, bass
Chuck Rainey, bass
Michael Warren, bass
Rob Wasserman, bass
Jimmy Fisher & Contagious Praise, drum programming
Roscoe Gallo, drum programming, MIDI bass
Narada Michael Walden, drums
Muruga, congas, drums, percussion
Bill Kreutzmann, hand drums
Vince Littleton, congas, drums, percussion
Greg Gordon, tamboura
Raul Ramirez, bongos, percussion
Armando Peraza, bongos
Mariana, vocals
Yanka Rupkina, vocals
Mary Stallings, vocals
Trio Bulgarka
Keystone Companions
Fantasy 7233796
recorded July 1973 at the Keystone in Berkeley, CA/USA
Jerry Garcia, guitar, vocals
Merl Saunders, organ, piano, synthesizer
John Kahn, bass
Bill Vitt, drums
David Grisman, mandolin

 
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