We’re extremely saddened to report that Merl Saunders passed away this morning at the age of 74 in San Francisco. Saunders’ B-3 playing broke new ground and has influenced many of the Hammond performers that have followed him. He’s best known for his work with Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, but he has also performed with with Harry Belafonte, Frank Sinatra, Lionel Hampton, Miles Davis, B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt and Paul Butterfield.
In more recent years, Merl has joined many jambands including Phish, Widespread Panic and Ekoostik Hookah for always memorable guest appearances.
Merl grew up in San Francisco and learned how to play the piano by age 10. In Jr. High School he was a bandmate and classmate of Johnny Mathis. Saunders married Betty Crenshaw and leaves behind three children (Anthony Saunders, Merl Saunders Jr., Susan Saunders) and a number of grand kids. R.I.P. Merl, you’ll truly be missed by all who had the pleasure of meeting your acquaintance or watched you work the piano, Hammond B3 or Clav.