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Embarras Valley Film Festival

BURL IVES (2006)

Burl IvesEarly portrait of Ives, which he autographed for his mother, circa 1928.

“I loved to play football. That was the big magnet which drew me to Charleston. When I saw all the heat that the poor men (the coaches) have to endure to exist, I said, ‘Well, that’s no life for me, so I think I’d better stick with the guitar.”

ROOTS IN CHARLESTON, ILLINOIS Born in Jasper County, Illinois, Burl Icle Ivanhoe Ives attended Eastern Illinois State Teachers College in Charleston (now Eastern Illinois University) and New York University but dropped out, choosing to play professional football for a while and travel the country as a handyman and itinerant singer. He was jailed in Mona, Utah for singing “Foggy Foggy Dew,” which was seen as a bawdy song by local officials. Ives moved to New York City in 1937. There, he sang folk songs in Greenwich Village clubs and by the end of 1938, he had made his Broadway debut . In 1940, Ives began to appear regularly on radio, including his own show, The Wayfarin’ Stranger, on CBS. Ives made his first records for Stinson, a small folk label, then was signed to Decca, a major label. He made his movie debut in Smoky in 1946. Ives starred in other movies, including East of Eden (1955), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), The Big Country (1958), for which he won an Academy Award, and many others.

Ives also cooperated with the Joseph McCarthy hearings and named fellow performers as possible Communists. His testimony allowed him to continue his movie career. He is well known as the narrator, Sam the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) and performed in other television productions, including a Star Wars made-for-tv movie, Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure (1984). His singing style was even featured on an episode of theThe Ren and Stimpy Show. In 1948, his first book, Wayfaring Stranger, was published. In 1949, he had his first chart hit with “Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly).” While continuing to publish books and to act on Broadway and in the movies, Ives made a series of albums that included Coronation Concert, The Wild Side of Life, Men, Down to the Sea in Ships, In the Quiet of the Night, Burl Ives Sings for Fun, Songs of Ireland, Old Time Varieties, Captain Burl Ives’ Ark, Australian Folk Songs, and Cheers, all released in the second half of the 1950s. In 1961, Ives oriented himself toward country music, which resulted in the hit “A Little Bitty Tear,” which made the Top Ten in both the pop and country charts. At the end of the 60s, Ives returned to Columbia Records for The Times They Are A-Changin’ and Softly and Tenderly. He returned in 1973 with the country album Payin’ My Dues Again. He also continued to record children’s music and also released several religious albums on Word Records. Turning 70 in 1979 he finally retired to Washington State. In the 90s, Decca and the German Bear Family label reissued many of his recordings. Burl Ives and his wife Dorothy lived with their children in Anacortes, Washington, until his death in 1995 at the age of 85. His body is interred in Mound Cemetery in Jasper County, Illinois.

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Eastern Illinois University

600 Lincoln Ave,
Charleston, IL 61920
(217) 581-2223

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