John Lee Sanders had just come in from walking his dogs when he took the call from the Free Press.
In a distinctly down south drawl, Sanders said he’s out of breath from his healthy outdoor experience. But no worries, his vocals will be in top form for his two-day gig in Prince George.
Sanders now lives in Kelowna with his Canadian wife Judy although his southern roots are far from here.
“I grew up in the Mississippi Delta, the birthplace of the blues, and I was always surrounded by great music. Within a 50 mile radius of my home lived legendary blues guys like B.B.King and Johnny Lee Hooker,” he said. (Elvis bought his first house onthe same street where Sander’s aunt and uncle lived.)
That was a very big influence on me and my love of the blues. We had blues music at church too.”
During the ?60s and ?70s, Sanders lived in rural Louisiana where he discovered other music styles that when blended together become what is now known as New Orleans rhythm and blues.
“I play that kind of music most often now, a mix of cajun, zydeco, jazz gospel, African and Caribbean rhythms it’s very uplifting. People get the idea that R and B music is sad and mournful but, no, it’s actually very uptempo music that celebrates life. Think of the Mardi Gras in New Orleans. It’s joyful.”
Sanders writes music for himself and other artists. His concert crowds hear more those original songs but when he plays dances like the local Royal Canadian Legion Hall on Oct. 23 and 24 this blues, roots, jazz, gospel, funk artist likes to kick it up a notch. He’s also a triple threat, playing piano, saxophone and guitar.
“For dances, I play fewer of my own songs and do a lot more song standards because it keeps people up on their feet dancing,” he said. When he travels here this weekend, Sanders said he’ll be bringing his band including new bassist Michael Fic, Tony Robertson on guitar and Scott Grant on drums. Luckily for blues music lovers, his wife snagged Sanders when he was in Vancouver performing otherwise we may never have heard his sweet New Orleans rhythm and blues brand of music live here in the North.
“For eight years we had a cross-border relationship. We got together in White Rock first, lived there for awhile, then moved to Kelowna.”
How does he like it? “I love it here,” he said, simply. Sanders has had a richly rewarding career on his own and won lots of awards for his music (he’s nominated in the 2009 Western Canada Music Awards Outstanding Blues Recording category for Bucket Full of Blues.) Still, he can name drop with the best of them. Sanders has either opened or composed songs for music giants like jazz blues artists Bo Didley, John Lee Hooker, Long John Baldry; ?50s and ?60s pop artists The Drifters, The Platters country artists Willie Nelson, Crystal Gayle, Motown’s Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and classic rock artists. He’s also got the stamp of approval from Blues Underground founder Earl Krushelnicki who has seen the “cream of the crop” in rhythm and blues, roots, boogie woogie music in his search for talent.
“My wife Nancie and I saw him at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival two years ago and thought we’d try to bring him here to play. We were amazed that we were able to do so,” he said.
John Lee Sanders and his band play two dances at the Legion Hall Friday, Oct. 23 and Saturday, Oct. 24. Tickets are $25 ($20 members) on sale at Books and Company and the Legion bar. Bring a friend to the Friday night dance and pay $15 for second ticket. Check out John Lee Sanders at http://johnleesanders.com.