Burl Ives

Burl Ives

Burl Ives was born in Jasper County, Illinois, on 14th June, 1909. He studied at Eastern Illinois State Teacher's College but he dropped out in 1930 and became a wandering minstrel. Ives performed folk songs on small radio stations and at public concerts with people such as Pete Seeger and Josh White.

Ives settled in New York in 1937 and the following year appeared in the musical, The Boys from Syracuse (1938). He sang at clubs like the Village Vanguard and in 1940 obtained his own CBS radio programme, The Wayfaring Stranger. During this period he popularized songs such asFoggy, Foggy Dew, Blue-Tailed Fly, I Know an Old Lady and Big Rock Candy Mountain.

After the Second World War the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began to investigate people with left-wing views in the entertainment industry. In June, 1950, three former FBI agents and a right-wing television producer, Vincent Harnett, published Red Channels, a pamphlet listing the names of 151 writers, directors and performers who they claimed had been members of subversive organizations before the Second World War but had not so far been blacklisted. The names had been compiled from FBI files and a detailed analysis of the Daily Worker, a newspaper published by the American Communist Party.

A free copy of Red Channels was sent to those involved in employing people in the entertainment industry. All those people named in the pamphlet were blacklisted until they appeared in front of the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and convinced its members they had completely renounced their radical past.

Ives was one of those named but he agreed to appear before the HUAC and named several former friends, including Pete Seeger, as members of the Communist Party. This enabled him to continue his career in Hollywood and he appeared in Show Boat (1954), East of Eden (1955) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof(1955) and The Big Country (1958).

In the early 1960s Ives had a succession of country chart hits with A Little Bitty Tear, Call Me Mr In-Between and Funny Way of Laughing. Burl Ives died in Washington, on 14th April, 1995.