Tony Saunders’ life story could be the script to a hit movie. Son of legendary keyboardist and composer 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 Jamerson, Stanley Clark, Jack Cassidy, 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 Merl Saunders/Jerry Garcia Band.
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 for soundtracks, written award winning movie scores and commercial jingles. Tony continues to record his own projects and produces for an impressive list of talent at his state of the art Northern California studio. Tony’s latest album Uptown Jazz is his third release on San Francisco Records.