John hails from Montreal, QC and caused a sensation playing banjo for
Big Redd Ford, The Humber River Valley Boys, and other popular Canadian bands. (He’s mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Canadian Music under Bluegrass.) In the early eighties he came to the U.S. (yes, he’s legal)….
Early photo of John Allen Bluegrass Revue, later evolved into The Big Redd Ford. L to R: John Allen, Lou Moore, Mike Love, John Saunders
Here’s a photo of him with the well-loved Cleveland based
Hotfoot Quartet. (He’s third from left, alternatively, he’s third from right. Does that make him a palindrome? (from left, Roland Kausen, Steve Slottow, John, Bob Frank, Dennis Bailey)
John’s Bluegrass banjo skills have led him to perform with Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Ricky Scaggs, Jerry Douglas, Byron Berline, Tony Trischka, Butch Baldassari, and many other great players. What’s more, when he was 17, Don Reno handed John his banjo and watched John play it on stage at Dawson College in Montreal. Neat memory.
From L to R, Dave Huddleston on bass, Vassar Clements on fiddle, Paul Kovac, guitar, and John Saunders, banjo. Cuyahoga Valley, 1994
John Saunders and Barbiel Matthews-Saunders
John Saunders with Barbiel as Silent Lion
“…The extraordinary banjo of John Saunders.” yes!
John Saunders with bluegrass buddies Vassar, Paul, Dave at Cuyahoga Valley, 1994
An early photo of John joining in with Bob Fuller and others at The Yellow Door in Montreal.
L. to Rt., Curly St. Denis on fiddle, Bob Fuller on guitar and vocals, and John Saunders on banjo at the Yellow Door Coffeehouse in downtown Montreal in the early 1970’s.
Mike Lilly was the banjo player for Larry Sparks when they played at the Yellow Door Coffeehouse in the early seventies in Montreal. Here he sits with John sharing some banjo ideas.
An early pic of John at the Blue Angel, Montreal. (Ladies room to the right and behind. In case.)
L to Rt: Lou Moore, Mike Love, John Saunders, Randy Hill
L to Rt: Tony Ellis, Kathy Fink, John Saunders, Roland Kausen
John plays more classic bluegrass at the Wheel Club with Bob Fuller and Jeannie Arsenault.
L to R: Bill Bland, Rocky Rogers, Bob Fuller, Barbiel and John at the Wheel Club in Montreal
John playing with Bob Fuller and friends at the Wheel Club in Montreal
Upper photo, Bobby Vail on fiddle, another fiddler, John, and Jeannie; lower pic of Barbiel w/John in background
John Saunders and Barbiel Matthews Saunders after starting their duo in 1995
John playing banjo at The Cuyahoga Valley festival with Byron Berline on fiddle (yes, he played with the Rolling Stones), and Denny Jones on mandolin, Paul Kovac on guitar, and Bill Watson on bass.
A Bearded John playing with Hotfoot Quintet
In September of 1990 John (middle) on banjo was joined by Dan Levinson (left) on clawhammer banjo and his buddy Roland Kausen (right) on guitar.
John “guesting” with Butch Baldassari and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble at the Kent State Folk Festival.
John at Augusta Heritage Banjo Workshop, being presented with gratuities including beer, at the end of the week.
And recently, John has even been seen playing renaissance and medieval selections on the five string. What fun!
John and Roland Kausen playing in Cleveland
Michael on viola da gamba, John on banjo, Barbiel on guitar at The Jewel Stage, Michigan Renaissance Festival
Silent Lion performing at The Dulc-i-more Festival
John playing at the Barking Spider, Cleveland, Ohio