Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Pioneering R&B guitarist Saunders King had his first hit in 1942 with "S.K. Blues." King was a preacher's son who sang gospel in his father's church in Oakland. He learned piano, banjo and ukulele. In 1938 he began playing guitar and wound up singing with the Southern Harmony Four for an NBC radio station in San Francisco. He soon developed his passion for blues and "S.K. Blues" was an enormous hit. It also features one of the earliest examples of electric blues guitar, the style for which T-Bone Walker would soon be famous. King recorded for the Aladdin, Modern, and Rhythm labels. He may have made a greater impact in the burgeoning West Coast blues scene of the '40s but was saddled with numerous personal problems including the suicide of his wife in 1942, a serious wound from a .45-caliber pistol fired by his landlord in 1946, and his serving time at San Quentin prison for heroin possession. King retired from music in 1961 and dedicated time to the church. In 1979, he briefly came out of retirement to play on his son-in-law Carlos Santana's Oneness album. By 1999 he had suffered a stroke that partially paralyzed him. He passed away on August 31, 2000 at his Oakland home. He was 91.