Red Saunders

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In a kind of cosmic congregation of nicknames, this Red worked during the Roaring Twenties jazz days with both a Tiny and a Stomp and was a loyal sideman of both Big and Tiny when R&B became a popular…
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In a kind of cosmic congregation of nicknames, this Red worked during the Roaring Twenties jazz days with both a Tiny and a Stomp and was a loyal sideman of both Big and Tiny when R&B became a popular style in the '50s. Red Saunders started out life as a Theodore, coming out of Milwaukee as a young drummer and heading for Chicago and a gig backing pianist Stomp King. Saunders would eventually add vibraphone and timpani to his percussion arsenal but first put in several years at the Savoy Ballroom, primarily playing with Tiny Parham. A rival Chicago venue, Club DeLisa, installed Saunders with his own band in 1937. Management must have been happy with the arrangements, not to mention the band, keeping Saunders on the same stage well into the mid-'50s.

The length of this stint might have hampered some players' circulation, yet Saunders also managed to get around as a substitute in some of the busiest bands in jazz: Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and Woody Herman also made use of him as a replacement percussionist. Fans of roots rock will enjoy the beats Saunders made use of on recording sessions with Big Joe Turner. The drummer's interest in bandleading continued to bear fruit in the form of extended Chicago employment, Saunders taking over the Regal's bandstand rule through most of the '60s. In the last decade of Saunders' life he performed with artists such as Little Brother Montgomery and Art Hodes at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.