Collections Blog

Collections Blog

The Radio Man, Arkansan Bob Burns

Old State House Museum - Thursday, October 19, 2017

Poster from the film "The Arkansas Traveler"For this month's collections highlight, we are featuring musician, comedian and actor Bob Burns. Burns was born in Greenwood, Arkansas, on August 2, 1890, and grew up in Van Buren, Arkansas. He began his music career before he was 10 years old, and when he was 13, he had his own string band! In 1935, Burns won a spot on Paul Whiteman’s coast-to-coast radio show which increased his popularity and kick started his entertainment career. Known primarily for hosting radio shows, “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Bob Burns Show,” Burns also appeared in movies throughout the 1930s and 1940s, including “Mountain Music,” “Our Leading Citizen” and “Rhythm on the Range.” Burns earned the nickname “The Arkansas Traveler” due to his comedy sketches that inspired both his radio show and eventually a movie of the same name.

Lobby card from the film "Our Leading Citizen”Beyond his work in radio and movies, he wrote a weekly newspaper column for sixteen years. He was also the inventor of the musical instrument the bazooka, which includes a long pipe and a funnel that functions as a rudimentary trombone.

Burns died from kidney cancer on February 2, 1956, in Encino, California, and is buried in Glendale, California. His house in Van Buren was added to the National Register of Historic Places on April 30, 1976, where its history and significance can be preserved for future generations.