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Phil Maffetone: The rock doctor of wellness


Maffetone first ran barefoot in 1968 during a high school track and field meet.
  • Maffetone first ran barefoot in 1968 during a high school track and field meet.

Phil Maffetone is a singer-songwriter. But he's more than that: Maffetone, or Dr. Maffetone, practiced medicine for 30 years before launching himself into the music business. During his time as a medical professional, he forged a unique approach to preventive and curative health counseling, treating some well-known music personalities and elite athletes along the way, including Rick Rubin, Johnny Cash, Red Hot Chili Peppers and James Taylor.

Although he was successful in his medical practice and had become renowned for his athletic training methods, Maffetone found something was missing in his life - or maybe misplaced.

"My first recollection of writing songs goes back to early childhood," recalls Maffetone. "It was always there for me, the desire to make songs. It wasn't like I was a gifted musician or anything like that. I just always had music in my head."

In those days without a guitar, Maffetone became a pioneer in the use of a holistic approach to mental and physical wellness. He started with a basic premise that the true holistic approach to developing more endurance is one in which all aspects of the athlete are considered.

Maffetone diagramed that premise as a triad of structural, chemical and mental fitness and health. He could address structural and chemical concerns using conventional approaches, but he didn't know how best to teach about mental fitness while in the role of a traditional medical practitioner. Then he hit upon the idea of rekindling his long-held love for music.

"I guess it was about ten years ago. I just woke up one morning and told myself I was going to become a singer-songwriter. It hit me that it wouldn't be possible to do this halfway," he recalls.

So just like that, he began to dismantle the practice he had built over 30 years. He and his partner, Coralee Thompson, combined their musical and professional backgrounds to create a unique experience for music lovers and those seeking better health.

Maffetone and guitar.
  • Maffetone and guitar.

Now, they're driving in an RV from Arizona to Georgia and then up the East Coast to New York State and back through Chicago, stopping in over a dozen cities, including Indianapolis, along the way to perform their own music, lecture on health and fitness, or provide personal health consultations. It is their third such tour in support of their albums and holistic living.

Their events blend music and wellness, and are hosted by local individuals. "We often perform in small house concerts," says Maffetone, whose recent album, Livin' on a Dead End Road, came out in early 2012. "We have found that house concerts are becoming popular again. These are small, intimate get-togethers typically held in someone's home, backyard, or nearby club or cafe. Depending on the audience size, we sometimes perform in an auditorium. Often, local musicians will join in the fun.


Now living on an almost self-sustaining small farm in the mountains of southern Arizona, Phil and Coralee have performed at the Tucson Folk Festival, and in Europe, Asia, Australia and Canada. Their music is an original and creative fusion of several forms of popular genres - folk rock, country, jazz and blues.

Maffetone has maintained a close relationship with his old patient, Rick Rubin. "It was like five days after I made my decision to shift gears, Rick called me out of the blue." He credits Rubin, now co-vice president of Columbia Records, with giving him the help he needed to get into the swing of things in the music business.

Maffetone has remained active as a writer during his sojourn: His Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing appeared in Sept. 2010, and The Big Book of Health and Fitness in Dec. 2011, adding to a publishing career during which he's penned more than a dozen books. And the fitness world has continued to follow his work: Inside Triathlon magazine recently listed him as one of the top 20 most influential people in endurance sports.


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