Tommy Saunders was born in Detroit in 1938. When he graduated from Grosse Pointe High School he entered the U.S. Navy School of Music and played in an Admiral’s band in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean theaters of operation. Saunders left the Navy in 1959 and joined the Pee Wee Hunt band.
His own band, the Surfside Six, played in a succession of Detroit area night clubs for the next 22 years: the Surfside Lounge, the Showboat, the Dearborn Town House and, finally, the Presidential Inn. Along the way he met Wild Bill Davison, the man who became his mentor and who would have the biggest influence on his musical style, as well as Bobby Hackett, Bob Scobey and Sidney DeParis.
Saunders has played the Bix Beiderbecke Memorial Festival, the Charleston Festival, the Ford/Montreaux Detroit Jazz Festival, the Sacramento Jubilee, the Sweet & Hot Music Festival in Los Angeles, the Great River Jazz Festival in LaCrosse, WI and many others. He has appeared at the Central Illinois Jazz Festival every year since its inception and was the Musical Director of that event since 1994.
Tom has toured throughout the U.S., Europe and China, and released albums on his own Lorelei label. He was also honored as the 2002 Sacramento Jazz Jubilee Emperor.