About Bob Burns
American radio and film comedian Bob Burns was known for his hillbilly humor, backwoods philosophy, and tall tales about life in the Ozarks during the 1930s and 1940s. For his contribution to the motion pictures and radio industry, Burns was honored with stars at 1601 Vine Street and 6541 Hollywood Blvd., respectively.
He was born Robin Burn on August 2, 1890 in Greenwood, Arkansas. When he was three years old, his family moved to Van Buren, Arkansas. As a young child, Burns was playing trombone and cornet in the Queen City Silver Cornet Band. At 13, he formed his own string band. Practicing in the back of Hayman's Plumbing Shop one night, he picked up a length of gas pipe and blew into it, creating an unusual sound. With modifications, this became a musical instrument he named a bazooka (after "bazoo", meaning a windy fellow, from the Dutch bazuin for "trumpet"). A photograph shows him playing his invention in the Silver Cornet Band.
During World War I Burns enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He sailed to France with the 11th Regiment, U.S. Marines, AEF, and as a sergeant became the leader of the Marine Corps's jazz band. He became known for his "bazooka" - made from stove pipes and a whiskey funnel.
Following the war, Burns played his novelty instrument on radio programs. Functioning like a crude trombone, his musical bazooka had a narrow range, but this was intentional. Burns used it as a prop when telling hillbilly stories and jokes. During World War II, GIs borrowed the name for their handheld anti-tank rocket launchers.
Burns became known as The Arkansas Traveler and The Arkansas Philosopher. His radio personality was a self-effacing, rustic bumpkin with amusing stories about "the kinfolks" back home in Van Buren. His character was patterned after Sanford Faulkner (1806–74), composer of the popular fiddle tune, "The Arkansas Traveler".
After performing on a Los Angeles radio station, Burns reached a national audience in 1935 by appearing on the Paul Whiteman and Rudy Vallee radio programs. he then became a regular on Bing Crosby's Kraft Music Hall, telling tall tales about his fictional hillbilly relatives, Uncle Fud and Aunt Doody. He remained with the Kraft Music Hall until 1941, when he his own radio series, The Arkansas Traveler (1941–43) and The Bob Burns Show (1943–49).
He made his film debut in Up the River (1930), and followed with Three Rogues (1930), Quick Millions (1931), Young as You Feel (1931), Lazy River (1934) and 19 more movies throughout the 1930s. In 1940, he was seen in Alias the Deacon and Comin' Round the Mountain. His last film was the Technicolor musical Western Belle of the Yukon (1944), set in the Canadian Gold Rush. Burns was top-billed with Randolph Scott, Gypsy Rose Lee and Dinah Shore.
From 1936 to 1940, Burns wrote a newspaper column, "Well, I'll Tell You," a column filler with brief homespun anecdotes. The daily feature was syndicated to 240 newspapers.
Burn's television appearances in the 1950s included Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town (January 30, 1955). A wealthy man from his land investments, Burns' final years were spent on his 200-acre (0.81 km2) model farm in Canoga Park, California.
He died from kidney cancer in Encino, California at the age of 65.