Born and raised in the southern U.S., John Lee Sanders was seeded in the hotbed for blues. After soaking in the culture for more than 60 years, he’s bringing the authentic sound to Penticton.
Sanders was set up for musical success from the get-go. He was born into a family from Memphis, Tn. who had legendary connections. His aunt was a close neighbour of Elvis Presley, and Aretha Franklin, a young girl at the time, lived just four blocks from his Grandmother’s house. Since he got his start in the 1970s, Sanders has noticed the demographics of blues audiences has shifted drastically. He remembers being surrounded by predominantly African American culture, but says his crowds now are 95 to 99 per cent white people.
“Blues has become much more of a white culture thing; they have blues festivals all over Europe nowadays,” he said. “Originally it was a much more rhythmic culture. Blues was part of the lifestyle; church music, blues, jazz – everything. It spread all over North America and the world, but it started in these little pockets in the south. Being where all that stuff comes from, you have more of a connection with it.”
Although he grew up in the birthplace of blues, it was a live performance by a group of white Europeans who got Sanders hooked.
“To see these guys from England come over and just play, I couldn’t believe how great of a blues band they were,” he said about the Rolling Stones. “But there’s no blues in pop culture anymore. There’s not really any blues stations anymore. Some country stations have a lot of blues influence, and most of the rock stations are still playing classic rock from the 1970s, which was strongly influenced by the blues. They’ve got so much of the blues in them.”
The blues has absorbed and intertwined with many other genres over the years, and Sanders likes mixing his sound with several southern influences, namely Texas country, gospel and roadhouse.
“I wouldn’t put me in a blues category. If I had to play just blues all night I’d be bored.”
Sanders has been called upon as a studio musician by numerous other professionals, and was even awarded a Grammy for his work with Anne Murray’s 2007 album Duets: Friends & Legends.
“It was a little more Michael Buble than what I normally do, that’s what they wanted.”
He’ll be performing at the Dream Café on Nov. 28 at 8 p.m.
“(Dream Café owners) Pierre (Couture) and Debra (Rice) are some of the best people I’ve met, they’re so supportive. They only bring in the best.”
Tickets cost $30, available by calling 250-490-9012.