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David Sanborn: The Blues and the Abstract Truth

David Sanborn
David Sanborn (photo: John Abbott)
David Sanborn
David Sanborn

In 1956 David Sanborn was a skinny 11-year-old kid whose left arm hung awkwardly, a result of his eight-year bout with polio. While the other boys were out playing sports, little David spent countless hours listening to the radio, falling in love with the hits of the day: Bill Doggett’s “Honky Tonk,” Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That a Shame” and Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.” Those three singles had something in common: wild, wooly saxophone breaks by Clifford Scott, Herb Hardesty and Lee Allen, respectively.

“I wasn’t like the other kids,” Sanborn reflects ruefully. “My mantra was, ‘Hey, guys, wait up.’ I used to lie in bed a lot, listening to the radio, which was my theater of the imagination. To hear those songs coming through the air from Memphis and New Orleans seemed so magical.

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Originally Published

Geoffrey Himes

Geoffrey Himes has written about jazz and other genres of music on a regular basis for the Washington Post since 1977 and has also written for JazzTimes, Paste, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, National Public Radio, and others. His book on Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A., was published by Continuum Books in 2005 and he’s currently working on a major book for the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has been honored for Music Feature Writing by the Deems Taylor/ASCAP Awards (2003, 2005, 2014 and 2015), the New Orleans Press Awards, the Abell Foundation Awards and the Music Journalism Awards.