If there is a forgotten hero of the blues guitar then it has to be Saunders King. Think about it. He scored with S K Blues in 1942, way before T-Bone Walker, Pee Wee Crayton and B.B. King hit the charts. Even S K Blues itself is not that well remembered although, inevitably and inimitably, Juke Blues editor Cilla Huggins can recall Howling Wolf's great guitarist Willie Johnson performing the song in 1970.
Our Saunders King compilation is drawn from his Rhythm and Modern recordings from 1942 through 1954. This is one of those rewarding projects that developed a life of its own. Opal Nations, that intrepid San Francisco blues and gospel researcher, had proposed the CD to me two years ago and had already gone as far as writing a draft note. That's confidence for you! It helped that Saunders King was from the Bay Area, so Opal was able to conduct innovatory background research. Then I was able to acquire some wonderful vintage photographs and memorabilia from Saunders King's daughters, Kitsaun and Deborah. As it happens, Deborah is the wife of superstar Carlos Santana, and she arranged for Carlos to write a testimony for the CD. This extract reflects his sentiments: The first time I heard the music of Saunders King I felt deep respect and admiration for the manifested elegance, grace, dignity, beauty and raw sensuality." Say no more.
When it came to the mastering process, our archivist Peter Gibbon and I found that many of the Rhythm acetates (acquired by Modern in 1949) were mislabelled. With the help of collector Victor Pearlin, I was able to compare the acetates with the original, rare 78 rpm records to ascertain that we had the correct takes as well as the correct song titles. Following this exercise, Peter and I were in a position to update the standard Soul Bag discography and this revised version is published in the booklet.
Selection highlights include that first big hit S K Blues on Rhythm (later reissued as New S K Blues on RPM) and the magical What's Your Story Morning Glory. Then there are the two 1949 R&B chart hits (that's all), Empty Bedroom Blues (Modern) and Stay Gone Blues (Rhythm). The rest is an engaging assortment of West Coast cool blues, jumps and shuffles with a dash of evergreen standards.
The net result is an attractive package that will stand as the definitive CD overview of Saunders King's career on record. It should also elevate his status as a true pioneer of the electric blues guitar and R&B generally.
By John Broven"