Burl Ives was one of six children born to a Scottish-Irish farming family. He first sang in public for a soldiers' reunion when he was age 4. In high school, he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher's College in 1927. He dropped out in 1930 and wandered, hitching rides, doing odd jobs, street singing.
Summer stock in the late 1930s led to a job with CBS radio in 1940; through his "Wayfaring Stranger" he popularized many of the folksongs he had collected in his travels. By the 1960s, he had hits on both popular and country charts. He recorded over 30 albums for Decca and another dozen for Columbia. In 1964 he was singer-narrator of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) (TV), an often-repeated Christmas television special. His Broadway debut was in 1938, though he is best remembered for creating the role of Big Daddy in the 1950's Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) when it ran on Broadway through the early 1950s.
His four-decade, 30+ movie career began with Ives playing a singing cowboy in Smoky (1946) and reached its peak with (again) his role as Big Daddy role in the movie version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and winning an Oscar for best supporting actor in The Big Country (1958), both in 1958. Ives officially retired from show business on his 80th birthday in 1989 and settled in Anacortes, Washington, although he continued to do frequent benefit performances at his own request. Burl Ives died in 1995.
|Dorothy Koster Paul||(16 April 1971 - 14 April 1995) (his death) 3 children|
|Helen Peck Ehrich||(6 December 1945 - 17 February 1971) (divorced) 1 child|
Frequent benefits for Indian reservations, peace academies, Boy Scouts, environmental groups, arts foundations, children's medicine
Interred at Mound Cemetery, Jasper County, Illinois, USA.
Burl Ives was the voice of Sam the Eagle, the narrator of the classic Disneyland attraction "American Sings" (1974-1988) in Tomorrowland.
Was inducted into the DeMolay Hall of Fame on June 24th, 1994.
Received the DeMolay Legion of Honor in 1986.
Was initiated into DeMolay at the George N. Todd Chapter in Charleston Illinois, in 1927.
He was a 33rd Degree Mason.
Was a licensed amateur (ham) radio with the call sign KA6HVA. When he passed away, he became, in ham radio parlance, a "silent key."
During the first season "The Ren & Stimpy Show" (1991) episode "Stimpy's Invention" featured a record, "Happy Happy Joy Joy," which contained a variety of spoken-word segments meant to parody some of Ives' albums from the 1960s. When Ives saw the episode, he contacted Ren and Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi and said that he would have been willing to do the voice over work for it.
A string of Ives' hit records, mostly for American Decca and primarily under the supervision of the legendary Owen Bradley, included such songs as "The Blue-Tail Fly" (his all-time biggest hit), "A Little Bitty Tear," "(It's Just My) Funny Way of Laughin'," "Mr. In Between" , "A Holly Jolly Christmas," and, of course, "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.".
His wife and three step-children were with him when he died.
Adopted son Alexander with first wife Helen. When they separated in 1960, she got custody.
Has at least five grandchildren.
Three step-children, Kevin Murphy, Rob Grossman, and Barbara Vaughn.
An activist liberal Democrat, in 1952 he named fellow folk singer Pete Seeger and others as possible Communists to the House Unamerican Activities Committee (HUAC) in order to avoid being blacklisted.
I was fortunate to be born into a family of Masons. Indeed, my older sister Audrey was Grand Matron of the Order of Eastern Star in Illinois. My DeMolay experience came very naturally because of my father and brothers. Thus was my youth enhanced.
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