John Lee Sanders was destined to be a musician.
Elvis Presley was his aunt’s neighbor and Aretha Franklin live four blocks from his grandmother’s house. After Memphis, Sanders lived in Birmingham, Ala., where he as a child progeny in the 1960s, was billed as “Little John, Birmingham’s answer to Little Stevie Wonder.”
Now a resident of British Columbia, Sanders is this week’s (March 18) featured artist at the Tuesday Night Winter Blues in at Center Stage on the casino floor at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe. This will be the first time in the free weekly event’s six shows that the guest artist is not a guitar player. Sanders plays saxophone and keyboards.
Tuesday Night Winter Blues is from 8 to 11:30 p.m. and his hosted by the Buddy Emmer Blues Band. The shows were slated to play seven weeks, but have been so well attended they will continue at least through May. Emmer, who is accompanied by vocalist Kim Emmer, opens the first set and is joined by the guest artist for two more sets.
Sanders studied music at University of North Texas and the University of Louisiana. He is well versed in Cajun, rock, gospel, jazz, country and R&B. He said he was inspired by personal encounters with Presley and Martin Luther King.
Sanders, who has nine albums, wrote a song for Marcia Ball that received a Grammy Award nomination. He’s also had his songs recorded by Eddie Kendricks of the Temptations, and his grandma’s neighbor Aretha covered one, too.
Last summer he toured Slovenia, Croatia, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. He also played nine sellouts in “A Gospel Blues Christmas” at Venice and Verona, Italy and cities in Spain and Austria.
Sanders opened for Bonnie Raitt during her recent tour in Canada.
Raitt is quoted in press materials as saying “John Lee’s one of my musical heroes, a quadruple threat. Louisiana’s loss is a Canada’s gain.”
Tahoe’s too, this Tuesday.