Tony Saunders

Tony Saunders, son of Merl Saunders, often played bass in the Rainforest Band, both on the road and in studio. Tony grew up jamming with his dad and his friend, Jerry Garcia. He received his first piano lesson from Herbie Hancock, and was awarded a fellowship at the prestigious San Francisco Conservatory of Music for piano. His first bass guitar was a gift from Tom Fogerty, brother of John and rhythm guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival. He has gone on to play and record with Elton John, Stevie Wonder, and Bo Diddley, among countless other renowned musicians, including Les McCann, Eshter Phillips, Dave Leibman, Neal Schon & Jonathan Cain, Joe Louis Walker, Chaka Kahn, ABBA, Average White Band, Bob Weir, Captain & Tenille, Clarence Clemmons, Cole Tate, Crosby Stills & Nash, David Grisman, Edwin Hawkins, Eric Clapton, Joe Sample, John Sebastian, Johnny Mathis, Leif Garret, Leon Russell, Mitch Mitchell, Narada Michael Walden, Noelle Hampton, Norton Buffalo, Patti LaBelle, Paul Butterfield, Rick Danko, Ringo Starr, Ron Wood, Sly Stone, Terry Haggerty, and Tony Bennett, just to name a few. He first toured with Dr. John back in the late 70's. Tony continues to produce records and write music for movies, TV shows and commercials, and has won many awards, including 2 Emmys for playing bass, and the New York Film Festival Grand and Silver Award for educational compositions. Hes demonstrated his versatility by both writing the music to the stage play Zetta (performed in San Francisco by A.C.T.) and assuming the role of musical director for the show. Its success led Tony to become musical director of Rock Justice, written by Bob Heyme and Marty Balin of Jefferson Starship. He has written, composed and arranged several film soundtracks, and appeared and performed in the movie Peggy Sue Got Married. Bands featuring Tony Saunders include Merl Saunders & the Rainforest Band, Band of Gypsies with Buddy Miles, Zero, Robert Winters & Fall, Tony Saunders & Paradize, M.R.L.S., and Heartlanguage.

For the Cause: Fundraising in the Music Industry

Tony Saunders has a long history of work with charitable organizations, raising money through benefit concerts and other events. As recently as this month, he held a concert for the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, and he was a major performer at Rock for Hope, an annual muscular dystrophy benefit concert in the San Francisco Bay Area. He has also worked with SEVA, the Rex Foundation, and Bread & Roses. As head of Magic Castle Studios, he has often raised money for musical ventures of all sorts. Tony will discuss both types of fund-raising, with helpful hints for your own projects.

Playin with Merl and Jerry

Tony Saunders grew up in the music business, from his first record as a kid with his brother & sister in the Man Child Singers, to his long history of musical projects with his father and others, to his Emmy award winning career as a producer, composer & arranger. He used to jam with his father and Jerry Garcia in their home, and performed in several projects with them since the age of 17, including the Garcia/Saunders Band and the score of the 1980s Twilight Zone TV series. In honor of their passing, Tony will share stories and reminiscences from his memories of Merl & Jerry.

















Back to Top