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)….
, (c) Double ‘O’ Banjo John Saunders, Convivium CD
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
(c) Kings of the Asturias, John Saunders, from cd Convivium
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, and Byron Berline, (here’s a video from that concert with Berline to enjoy!) https://youtu.be/BwaDjlg7HHg
and let’s not forget 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. Give a listen to John and all on Limehouse Blues: https://youtu.be/qG-gnNJgjwQ
(c) Kneejerk Blues, John Saunders. A super-energized banjo tune. Featuring the great Denny Jones on fiddle. This song features some banjo onamatopoeia. If you use your imagination you can see why John called it this. From the CD and Silent Lion CD. John’s Mostly Banjo
John Saunders and Roland Kausen formed a Cleveland based duo named Crossties, a favorite with audiences. They offered Bluegrass/Country/Swing/Jazz standards and more for their delighted fans.
Here’s another Cleveland area favorite called , comprised of The First String Band Bill Lestock on fiddle (left ), Kevin Richards on guitar and vocals, (center), and John Saunders on banjo (right).
John at a jam session, somewhere….
, (c) Shiloh John Saunders, from John’s Mostly Banjo CD
John Saunders and Barbiel Matthews-Saunders
John Saunders with Barbiel as Silent Lion
Chalet Bar-B-Q (c) , John Saunders, on John’s Mostly Banjo CD
“…The extraordinary banjo of John Saunders.” yes!
Stepping Stone, (c) John Saunders, from cd. Convivium
Here’s a traditional Greek song, arranged with some original banjo-exotica by John. John’s instrumental features Ten-string Irish Bouzouki, mandolin, banjo, joined with atmospheric vocals by Barbiel. Agrapha, “Banjo bellydancing music!”
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.
(c) The Postcard Song, J.Saunders/B.Matthews Postcards are almost obsolete, but this song isn’t. John collects postcards. He’s fanatical. 100,000 of them…..and still counting….help….
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
, (c) Penny’s Waltz John Saunders, from John’s Mostly Banjo CD
The album cover. Produced by Big Redd Ford Jerry Douglas, the incomparable dobro player. Recorded in February 1978, Ottawa, Ontario. You can hear Big Redd Ford on YouTube.
Back album cover with picture of , L to Rt, Big Redd Ford Jerry Douglas, Randy Hill, Lou Moore, Mike Love, John Saunders.
, (c Wizard’s Fantasy ) John Saunders, CD Ye Traveler’s of Time
(c) Marrakesh, John Saunders. As if Bach travelled to North Africa. On the out of print CD and also on Satellite to Reason . John’s Mostly Banjo CD
L to Rt: Tony Ellis, Kathy Fink, John Saunders, Roland Kausen
In 1993 Barbiel signed up at Goose Acres Folk Music Center, in Cleveland, Ohio , to take mandolin lessons from John Saunders.
, (c) Waltz for Barbiel John Saunders, from John’s Mostly Banjo CD
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.
, arrangement Ode to Miserlou John Saunders, from cd Ye Travelers of Time
John Saunders and Barbiel after starting their duo in 1995.
Cool Spring Rag, (c) John Saunders
John Saunders 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.
, Off the Coast, (c) John Saunders and also on the out of print, John’s Mostly Banjo CD Satellite to Reason
, (c) Bus to Dublin John Saunders/B. Matthews, from CD Convivium
John “guesting” with Butch Baldassari and the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble at the Kent State Folk Festival.
John at Augusta Heritage Banjo Workshop, Elkins, W.V., being presented with gratuities including beer, at the end of the week.
In the photo below,
John performs with the amazing guitarist Robin Kessinger.
The above photo shows
Roland Kausen, guitar, and Dave Huddleston, bass, performing with John. Below photo shows Dave watching one of John’s solo moments.
Barbiel in her Great Hat at Great Lakes Medieval Faire
And recently, John has even been seen playing renaissance and medieval selections on the five string. What fun!
, (c) The Quebec Song John Saunders, inspired by Quebec French jazz influences, we have this on the Cd . This features the fantastic fiddle of the late Silent Lion Denny Jones from Carrolton, Ohio. Ohio’s own Dave Huddleston provides the solid bass part. John plays banjo and lead guitar and Barbiel plays rhythm guitar.
John and Roland Kausen playing in Cleveland at Case Western Reserve University.
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
, instrumental, slightly different version….from Greensleeves cd Into the Medieval World
, (c) Back to the Highlands John Saunders, from the CD Silent Lion