Tony’s story could be a script to a hit movie. Son of legendary musician Merl Saunders, Tony’s life has been a musical adventure that would be impossible to duplicate. As a child, he was taught piano by Herbie Hancock and for his tenth birthday received an electric organ as a gift from Sly Stone.
Being around his dad, who was part of the Fantasy Records family of artists, he was constantly surrounded by music royalty including record executives Max Weiss and Saul Zaenz. His early influences were 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.”
Tony graduated from the prestigious Conservatory of Music in San Francisco as a piano player, but soon after he started honing his skills on the bass, listening to James Jamison, Stanley Clark, Jack Cassidy and others he knew the bass was going to be his love. Chuck Rainey and John Kahn took interest in Tony and helped him with bass lessons and gave him a legacy to live up to. “In 1967 my dad met Jerry Garcia and boy did my life change.” By the time Tony was 18, he played his first gig with Jerry Garcia and his dad Merl in the legendary Jerry Garcia/Merl Saunders Band. Tony’s musical road has continued on from that era through today. He has played and recorded with musical greats which include: Eric Clapton, David Crosby, Jerry Garcia, Stevie Wonder, Joe Sample, Chaka Kahn, Ringo Starr, Patti LaBelle, Elton John, The Hawkins Family, and many others! “This just touches the edge of who I have been blessed to play with.”
Tony has performed on hundreds of albums and CDs, written movie scores, commercial jingles and video soundtracks. He is also known as an accomplished songwriter and producer. “I love Babyface, George Duke, Marcus Miller and the sound of Gospel music.”