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Burl Ives Biography

Home > Music > I > Ives, Burl > Biography

Born: 1909/06/14
Birth Place: Hunt City, Illinois, U.S.
Genres: Children's, Christian/Gospel, Country, Folk, Pop, Seasonal, Vocals

Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives (June 14, 1909 – April 14, 1995) was an American actor, writer and folk music singer.

Ives traveled about the U.S. as an itinerant singer during the early 1930s, earning his way by doing odd jobs and playing his banjo. In 1940 Ives began his own radio show, titled "The Wayfaring Stranger" after one of his ballads. Over the next decade, he popularized several traditional folk songs, such as “Foggy, Foggy Dew” (an English/Irish folk song), “Blue Tail Fly” (an old Civil War tune), and “Big Rock Candy Mountain” (an old hobo ditty).

In the 1960s Ives began singing country music with greater frequency. In 1962 he released three songs that were popular with both country music and popular music fans: "A Little Bitty Tear", "Call Me Mister In-Between", and "Funny Way of Laughing".

Also in 1964, Ives played the narrator, Sam the Snowman, in the Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated television special, “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Ives' "A Holly Jolly Christmas" and "Silver and Gold" from the show are now considered holiday standards. The yearly rebroadcast of the popular seasonal television special has forever linked Ives to the Christmas season.

Ives died of complications of mouth cancer on April 14, 1995 and is interred in Mound Cemetery in Hunt City Township, Jasper County, Illinois.