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Episode 2 | Bob Maddox and His Musical Saw

Episode 2 | Bob Maddox and His Musical Saw

If you've recently visited Market Square in Knoxville, Tennessee, chances are you've Dr. Bob Maddox. You may have heard him and not known--a vaguely operatic sound. His singing saw draws a range of reactions. A professor turned busker, Bob began busking as a hobby and form of people watching, though he's played the musical saw since childhood. Listen now, and hear about the history of the musical saw, the siren song of the singing saw, and how Bob's story fits in.

The thing that surprised me most is for the core, for the real core of a person, you don’t change when you get older. . . . Your core being still stays the same. The things that give you pleasure and joy and pain and sadness, it all stays with you. To me, that’s a good revelation because I haven’t lost it.
— Bob Maddox, Episode 2

Motorcycle Stories

For his 70th birthday, Bob and his son biked Tail of the Dragon, "Mecca for riders," which has more than 300 curves in about 11 miles. Here are a few of his other motorcycle stories:

"When I retired, I was probably more active than I am now. I had ridden a motorcycle as a child and in high school, I had a pretty good wreck on a motorcycle, and before I got out of the hospital, my father had it sold, and said never would I have another motorcycle.

"Well, I grew up from there without a motorcycle and when my sons came along, I told them that never would they bring a motorcycle into the house. The saying I had for them, If you bring a motorcycle home, I’m gonna put sugar in the gas tank, it’ll ruin it, and so you’ve just wasted your money. Well, they never had a motorcycle growing up.

"My youngest son, about, I guess 15 years ago, came over to the house and said, 'I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.' He said, 'Which do you want first?' I said, 'Well, give me the good news first.' And he said, 'It’s got a locking gas cap, so you can’t put sugar in it.' And the bad news was he had bought a motorcycle.

"Well, there was no reason then for me to not ride a motorcycle anymore.

"So within one week, I had bought a motorcycle, and that was one of the most enjoyable parts of retirement was riding. . . .

"We rode one good long trip every summer. The last two summers, we rode to New York City and camped up there. We’ve ridden to south Florida, Washington, D.C., the Blue Ridge Parkway. . . ."

Bob sold his motorcycle to keep his other son from worrying about him. He still makes trips and follows his son's bike with his car, pulling a camper.

"So I sold my motorcycle and now I pull a little camper."


Bob became a vegan at 70, after watching a documentary with Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Bill Clinton on diet's effects on heart disease. Bob said he hasn't had to take medication for his heart since and that he feels more energetic in some ways at 80 than before this change.

A favorite book:

For more on Knoxville Stomp, and the lost recording sessions Bob references in the show, click here.


The canned music supporting Bob's musical saw playing on this episode includes:

1. " Amazing Grace" in Album: Wedding Ceremony, Guitar Music for Weddings, published 2012 Guitar Wedding Songs

2.  "How Great Thou Art" by United Guitar Players in Album: Country Gospel Christian Hymns on Acoustic Guitars, Instrumental Alan Jackson Renditions, published 2014 UGP

3.  "Ramblin' Rose" by Acker Bilk in Album: The Best Instrumental Hits, Vol. 1, Various Artists, published 2011 LMG

Episode 3 | The Tomato Man's Mission: Bill Best and Saving Seeds

Episode 3 | The Tomato Man's Mission: Bill Best and Saving Seeds

Episode 1 | Chuck Leach and the TFE

Episode 1 | Chuck Leach and the TFE