Jim Leonard: Scratch My Back

Scratch My Back: A Pictorial History of the Musical Saw and How to Play It  is one of the only books written about the musical saw. It was written by sawyer Jim Leonard with Janet Graebner and was published in 1989. The book includes chapters on the history of the saw, saw players, and instructions on how to play the saw. It even includes a little about the physics of the sound of the saw. It’s out of print, but you can find a used copy for sale online, though they aren’t inexpensive. If you are a real saw enthusiast, you might want to invest in a copy. It’s great reading.

The author, Jim “Supersaw” Leonard, a master sawyer, has played on radio and television, at theme parks in California, pizza parlors, and he was even a guest on the Gong Show in 1976. The Gong Show was a sort of America’s Got Talent of the 1970’s, though the Gong Show specialized in more unusual acts. According to his book, Jim got 29 out of 30 total points as a contestant on the show. Jamie Farr and Ansel Williams each gave him ten points and Phyllis Diller only gave him 9, so he lost the contest to a baton twirler. Here he is more recently, at age 8o playing “Wonderland By Night.” He uses his leg for vibrato, and you can see his technique clearly in this video. You can also read an interview with him that appeared in the LA Times at the bottom of the page.


Not That Old Saw! Bowman Makes Tools Sing New Tune

“Don’t hold it that way; you’ll saw the hairs right off!”


Rowena Southard, your blog hostess, is a musical saw enthusiast who lives in California. She loves all kinds of music and has a special fondness for unusual instruments.