The Musical Saw in Clown Acts

Not many people know that the musical saw is a more or less traditional instrument in the circus...
This is a tribute to the saw playing clowns of yore and of today, because they kept alive the tradition of novelty instruments in times and places where there was no vaudeville/shows where you could see them.
Hurra for them !!!

Know of another musical saw playing clown (living or deceiced)? Please e-mail us the information and we will post it here with credit given to you.


Les Claveros, MR. Grau played the musical saw in this French duo

Balto with his partner Pipo, France
Fernand Letendre (clown name Balto) played in Normandy (France) before and after World War II, particularly betwen Paris and Le Havre, at many town festivals and christmas events, mostly towards the end of his life. His Keller musical saw is still played today by his grandson Arnaud Letendre.
When not working as a musical saw playing clown, Mr. Letendre also played moderne style classic and Frenchs songs whith his band

Alexis, France

Gaston, France


The Italian Rossyan Yann Rossi

An auguste, Italian clown Gyula Saly

European clown (I guess he is Italian) Paolo
The photo was taken in 1954

Italian family of clowns Les "Stieno's"
Postcard from the 1950's of a family of clowns. The auguste is playing the saw... as well as accordion, another classic Clown instrument. The most common instruments for the Clown couple were always accordion and saxophone, the white face Clown playing the accordion in most cases...

The Italian clown Margherito
The photo shows Margherito in 1974 with clown Momino, holding a saw which, I assume he played. Momino's face is very english in style, more than italian... the white base and those two black marks under his nose are very british...


The spanish family The Pajares; note the saw and its bow on the floor

The Los Eccentrics (Spanish trio) use a saw in their act. One Catalonian guy and two French

Bubu at Universal Circus, January 2006, Spain

Portuguese Clown Cesar Dias playing his saw in a spanish circus, January 2007.

Bonbon (I think he is from Denmark), usually performs with his wife Tina.

American Larry Benner - The Versatile Artist Supreme
Note the 'singing saw' at the right of the card
This is novelty performer Larry Benner (born Dec. 29, 1900, passed away in the 1970's) of Miamisburg, Ohio, son of a musician. Larry started out as a professional violinist in Chicago. He later played the musical saw as well as a 27 note set of Shaker chimes. His chimes are now showcased at the Circus World Museum (426 Water St., Baraboo, WI 53913). He also had a flea circus, did magic tricks and had a puppet show. One of his amazing acts was: he tore newspapers while he told a story, and when the story finished he would open the sheet of paper and there would be a circle of elephants and other figures that pertained to the story he just told.
For 50 years Larry clowned in clubs and parks and with the Barnett Circus, Sparks Circus and Sells-Floto Circus (a combination of the Floto Dog & Pony Show and the Sells Brothers Circus that toured with sideshow acts).
Larry also sang comedy songs and strummed a guitar, was a hit with Punch & Judy shows and had a ventriloquist act where he yodled with his dummy "Jerry". Larry had a studio in the Lyon and Healey building where he gave lessons. His students won prizes. Larry also had his own orchestra with which he toured.
Larry entertained at Riverview, White City (amusement park) and at the World's Fair. He put on illusions and starred on medicin shows, in black face and in Dutch comedies.
In the words of James Madison, Larry was "This artist versatile is master at his art which is to charm the mind and to enrich the heart".
THANK YOU very much to Larry's nieces, Jane and Saron, for providing info about her uncle Larry Benner.

In Switzerland, Dimitri is a clown who can play many instruments, including the musical saw. He uses a feather duster for a bow with his saw!


Teddy Clarinetti, Clown from Circus Herman Renz, a Dutch show.
THANK YOU Vincent Wols for this info.
(The tradition says that it was in this circus, back in 1865, where american acrobat Tom Belling created the character of the Auguste, the stupid Clown with red nose, big shoes and crazily dressed...)

In the UK there are a few saw playing clowns:

Award winning Clown Bluey plays a tenor saw (as well as alto sax, 20 Note Trueman Hand Operated Reed Organ, banjo and ukele banjo.) He worked in Big Tops, has guested with Zippo's Circus (London) and appeared under the canvas at Festivals in Holland, Austria and Germany. He has been playing the saw since approx. 1985. In the description for his saw act he says "Children can join in with an assortment of percussion instruments, whistles and horns: not for the fainthearted!
Clown Bluey can be reached through

Tommy Terrific plays the saw.
Rainbow the Clown is learning to play saw.

The auguste is the silly clown, with red nose, big shoes, exagerated clothes;
his companion the white face is the straight man in the act.

To those of you who wonder if Natalia has a clown act...
"When I was little I lived in Switzerland. The Medrano circus had their winter headquarters not far from our house. Our house was a bit isolated from the village, and actually the circus was the closest thing to our house. Which is why I ended up being baby-sat by one of the clowns... I remember a day when we were watching the tight-rope walker practice. Suddenly "my" clown said to me: "I will teach you to walk on a rope!". I was only 4 years old... He took a rope, tied one end of it to a short pole, and made a loop of the other end. He called a little person (who was just as tall as I was) and put the loop on his neck. The rope was stretched ON THE GROUND between the pole and the little person... He gave me a yellow parasol, told me to hold on to it, and he demonstrated how to walk on the rope (which was on the ground) and how to pretend it's really difficult and to pretend I'm almost falling. It was fun.
So, you see why I have a soft spot for clowns in my heart?"

Much gratitude to Peppo the Clown (a.k.a. Marcelo Melison) of Canada, clown archivist, researcher and collector for being the inspiration behind this page as well as the main supplyer of info.

Much gratitude also to Clown Bluey of the UK for UK info.
Much gratitude also to Arnaud Letendre of France for info about his grandfather Fernand Letendre (clown name Balto)

Much gratitude also to Johnny García, sound engeneer of the 'Los Eccentrics's shows 2004, 2005 and 2007, near Barcelona, Spain.


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