Burl Ives is known primarily as the balladeer/actor who voiced the snowman narrator in the children's movie "Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer". However, his colorful career has less than auspicious beginnings. He whom poet Carl Sandburg referred to as "the mightiest ballad singer in this or any century" had originally meant to become a football coach when starting his education at Eastern Illinois University. His path took a decidedly less athletic turn when he saw what the rigors of instructing a team through a routine practice could do to a body. "Well, that's no life for me," he'd said, "so I think I'd better stick with the guitar." His partying lifestyle in college, however, led to his grades dropping and a conversation with ELI's President at the time, Livingston C. Lord. Lord encouraged Ives' desire to follow his musical inclinations. I doubt that he'd meant for him to follow it away from the school, yet that's what the aspiring singer did, via quitting college and hitchhiking across the U. S. Learning a variety of folk songs from the people he'd met along the way (cowboys, miners, and such), he made his way to New York. After studying at both Juilliard and New York University, and some time on Broadway, he began work as a full-time performer. After touring with a folk group called "The Weavers," he began to make his own name in the business, acting and singing in various productions throughout the west.

Being a man of large stature, he was often cast in the "intimidating antagonist" role, a contrast to his gentle demeanor. Of these parts, it's most notable that the one he helped create was a character in Tennessee Williams' "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", Big Daddy Politt.

Major points in the life of Burl Ives:

1909 - June 14th, Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives is born in Hunt Township, Illinois.

1927 - Graduated Newton High School and enrolled at Eastern Illinois University.

1929 - Gives into his wanderlust and minstrel instincts, leaving his college career incomplete.

1937 - Begins taking vocal coaching at New York University.

1938 - Catches the interest of producer George Abbott during a stint playing minor roles at Rockridge Theatre. In writing a small role for Ives, Abbott brought Ives' talent to the fore, allowing him the break he needed.

1940 - After appearing on a number of NBC and CBS programs, he is given his own show. Called "The Wayfarin' Stranger", it was named after one of his ballads.

195? - Performs as 'Big Daddy Politt' in the play "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".

1958 - Earns an Academy Award for his performance as Rufus Hannassey in the film "The Big Country".

1964 - Voices the narrating snowman on "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

1977 - Takes the role of Senator Arthur Johnson in the controversial mini-series "Roots".

1995 - Dies April 14th of mouth cancer

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