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.