7 years ago today (10/24/08), keyboardist Merl Saundres died in San Francisco of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2002. Saunders gained notice in the 1970s when he began collaborating with Jerry Garcia. Saunders at in with the Grateful Dead, and co-founded the Saunders/Garcia Band which produced three albums, and which became The Legion of Mary with the addition of Martin Fierro (sax) in 1974. It disbanded the following year, but he and Garcia continued to collaborate in the band Reconstruction during 1979, collaborating with Ed Neumeister (Trombone), Gaylord Birch (drums) and John Kahn (Bass).
He led his own band as Merl Saunders and Friends, playing live dates with Garcia, as well as Mike Bloomfield, David Grisman, Michael Hinton, Tom Fogerty, Vassar Clements, Kenneth Nash, John Kahn and Sheila E.. He also collaborated with Grateful Dead percussionist Mickey Hart in the band High Noon.
Merl Saunders took the lead in reintroducing Jerry Garcia to his guitar after Jerry suffered a diabetic coma in the summer of 1986. Listen to Saunders and Garcia perform a delicate version of Bob Dylan’s “Positively 4th Street” live from ’73.