Sunday, May 29, 2005

Bazooka Joe

On this memorial day weekend, I'd like to share some obscure info about our fighting arms.
One of the strangest names for any weapon that I'd ever heard, was the name for the Bazooka. Once you hear the word, you instantly know what the device looks like in your's a long single barrel pipe-like device that rides on the soldier's shoulder and is usually fired while kneeling. The term was coined back in WWII by a captain during a demo of the weapon for General Somervell. While showing the device off, the captain stated, "It looks just like a Bob Burns Bazooka!" All the gathered laughed, including Somervell, and the name stuck.
Who is Bob Burns and what was it he had that was called a Bazooka?
Back in the Arkansas hills, in 1905, young Bob Burns was practicing with his small band in the back of Hayman's Plumbing shop. Supposedly they were playing "Over the Waves" and Burns broke a string on his mandolin. With nothing else to do, he picked up a piece of gas pipe about 20 inches long and started blowing into one end. He got a bass note and then proceeded to wrap a piece of sheet music into a tube, and while sliding it in and out, created a trumbone effect. Later he soldered a funnel on one end of a tin tube, complete with a handle, and used that as a trumbone arm.

Burns coined the name Bazooka for the device by referencing the Arkansas regional phrase, "That guy blows his bazoo too much." or "He blows his bazoo a lot." Meaning the guy is full of wind...a wind bag. The bazoo was taken care of....the "ka" part came from other instruments like harmonica or balalaika.
Bob Burns later became well know as the "Arkansas Traveler" on radio, his debut being on Rudy Vallee's Fleischmann Hour (1929-39). After several guest appearances on Valee's show, Burn's joined up with the "Kraft Music Hall" in 1936 and was a featured player and utimately got his own show in 1941 (when we entered WW II) called the Bob Burns Show.
Burns' adopted instrument, the bazooka, was so popular (by even the 30's) that Webster's Collegiate Dictionary in defining the army weapon, also added: "a crude musical instrument made of pipes and a funnel".


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