One of the greatest B-3 players ever, Born in San Mateo, California, Saunders gained notice in the 1970s when he began collaborating with Jerry Garcia, with the Grateful Dead and with Garcia's bands The Legion of Mary and Reconstruction.
He led his own bands, as Merl Saunders and Friends, playing live dates with Garcia, as well as Mike Bloomfield, David Grisman, Tom Fogerty, Vassar Clements, Kenneth Nash, John Kahn and Sheila E.
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 album Fiesta Amazonica.
Message from Merl Saunders' family:
Merl Saunders stood for music and love - his smile alone told you that.
We loved him very much - and we know that you, his fans, did too.
Sad as we are to lose him, we're very aware of being comforted by the affection
coming from all those touched by that smile and that wonderful music.
He was a special man, a beautiful companion, father, grandfather, and family patriarch,
and the proof of that spirit is in the way you've reached out to us at his passing.
From our hearts, thank you. And we know Merl thanks you too.
Keep on keepin'on,
The Saunders Family