}} Ken Sanders on stage at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium.
Ken Sanders grew up in Nashville, Tennessee and started his path as a musical performer when he was three years old and sang “Goodnight Irene” on the WMAK radio program “Breakfast at the Maxwell House”. Ken started school early (at five) and also began studying piano at that time. Getting recognition for his strong voice, he also began singing on a Saturday afternoon WSM radio show “Opry Spotlight”. It was there he met many Opry stars of that era; Lonzo and Oscar, Jim Reeves, Cowboy Copas, Ernest Tubb, The Wilburn Brothers, and Hawkshaw Hawkins.
Ken continued to perform in talent shows and at civic functions during his school years and also learned to play guitar (a seemingly mandatory requirement for a Nashville boy with musical aspirations). The Nashville public schools didn’t offer guitar or piano studies in those days, so Ken decided to learn drums so he could play in the school bands. He learned quickly and beginning in his freshman year, he placed first in the All-Star Band and the All-State Band try-outs.
By 1963, Ken was singing and playing guitar and piano with various teen rock and roll “combos” in Nashville. Then, at age 15, a local band, composed of adult musicians, needed a drummer to perform on area gigs and local television shows. The band leader knew that Ken played drums in the school band so he asked Ken’s parents if they would let him get a drum set and play with their band. After some “he’s underage” conditions from his parents, they agreed and that started Ken’s career as a professional drummer. He used his band earnings to pay for his first very drum set and actually went professional before he could even drive a car.
During the next few years, Ken became more recognized in Nashville as a drummer and vocalist, and he went through a steady progression of “moving up the food chain” into better and more successful Nashville bands. By 1967, Ken had landed the drum chair in Nashville’s most popular pop/horn band of that era, the Fairlanes. He landed the gig with the Fairlanes for his ability to play funky syncopated drum patterns, do entertaining drum solos, and for his strong background and lead vocals.
Adding to this experience was his opportunity to do some jingles and demo work with the Fairlanes musicians at Audio Media Studios. He did lots of vocals, drums, backing vocals and even an occasional guitar or keyboard part. He recalls that he had the good fortune to meet and jam with some very interesting musicians who were hanging out in Nashville back then.
They included Duane and Greg, members of a club circuit band called the Allman Joys (the early Allman Brothers), and a left-handed black blues guitarist (with straightened black hair and a dyed blonde streak down the middle!) named Jimi Hendrix. He remembers that those jams were bluesy shuffles and deep pocket fatback grooves that weren’t considered good commercial tunes for the time. But today, people would think that was sooooooo cool. The Fairlanes played all the major gigs in the Nashville area, frequently adding vocalist Robert Knight (”Everlasting Love”) to their shows. The Fairlanes also backed up other touring vocal artists who played Nashville (including lots of shows with Clifford Currey, “She Shot A Hole in My Soul”). The Fairlanes were certainly the hot, tight, in demand band of the day in the Nashville area and were chosen to be the “house band” for the first Mid South Pop Festival (an early forerunner of later outdoor rock festivals). They performed with some of the popular artists of the day including Charlie McCoy, Arthur Connolly (“Sweet Soul Music”), Bobby Goldsboro (“Little Things”, “Honey”), Grand Funk Railroad, Bubble Puppy, Joe South (“Oh the Games People Play”, “Walk a Mile in My Shoes”), and Tony Joe White (“Polk Salad Annie”). On into the seventies Ken continued to play Fairlanes gigs, engagements with Dan Boone’s Odyssey, and on multi-act shows in and around Nashville; including shows with Brenda Lee, Buddy Spicer, Art Garfunkle, Eddie Rabbitt, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dobie Gray (“I’m in with the In Crowd”, “Drift Away”, “Loving Arms”), Bruce Channel (“Hey Baby”), and Mark Denning (“Teen Angel”). There was a little United States Army break .....that landed Ken in the Army Band and a chance to study at the Navy School of Music at Little Creek, VA. He returned to Nashville in 1971.
In 1981, Ken released a Country Rock vocal “Something You Got” on Chestnut Hill Records. With an established reputation as a vocalist/drummer/band leader, Ken has been with other line-ups doing shows with The Drifters, The Platters, Percy Sledge, Rufus Thomas, The Casinos (“Then You Can Tell Me Good-bye”), Chuck Berry, Charlie Daniels, Ronnie McDowell, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Kentucky Headhunters, The Kimballs, The Glass Hammer (“I Don’t Wanna Make You Love Me”), Eddie Rabbitt, and The Original Chessmen. He has also traveled with the Memories of Conway Twitty Show.
In 2006, Ken was honored to tour for a series of cultural exchange festival performances (guitar and vocals)in Costa Rica with the show and dance group depicting Tennessee’s traditional American music heritage.
Today, Ken works on recording products with David Chambliss, Harrison Tyner, and Tom Pick at Adonda Records and on HTI Management musical projects; does occasional shows fronting the Fabulous Fairlanes (“Everlasting Love” 1967), and often with the Original Chessmen (“How Sweet It Is” back in 1964). In Nashville he also performs gala events with three big bands in Nashville; The Moonlighters, The Jazz Alliance and The Al Menah Big Band.
Ken also performs with his own groups in the Nashville area doing lead vocals with the Nashville Jazz Cats and drums/vocals with the jazz super trio, “Martin, Nelson, Sanders” that features guitarist, David K. Martin and keyboardist, Scott Nelson.
Other Activities Ken Sanders is a featured artist of the Tennessee Jazz and Blues Society. He is also major contributor of articles published on the Drum Solo Artist website and moderator of the DSA Forum. Many of Ken’s drum-related articles are posted in various forums on the internet. Just Google “Nashville Drummer Ken Sanders”.
Ken’s Serious Choices for Gear: Yamaha drum kits Paiste Cymbals Aquarian drum heads Vater drum sticks Heil microphones Kelly Shu Booty Shakers