Rock the Oscars 2019: Arkansan and Oscar Host Bob Burns

Bob Burns was a well-known national radio and film personality during the 1930s and 1940s. He was known such as “The Arkansas Traveler” and “The Arkansas Philosopher” because he wove tales of life in the Arkansas hills with his musical performances.

On March 10, 1938, he hosted the tenth Oscar ceremony, becoming the first Arkansan to do so.  At that ceremony the big winner was The Life of Emile Zola. The first version of A Star Is Born became the first color motion picture nominated for Best Picture. It was also the first time the Irving Thalberg Award was presented.  At the time, Burns had made a few movies and was ruling the airwaves as a popular radio star.  Since the Oscars were broadcast on the radio, he was an appropriate choice to host the awards.

He earned his nickname, “Bazooka,” from an instrument he invented and named as a young man in a plumbing shop.  The instrument, which was a simple device made of spare gas fittings and a whiskey funnel, eventually lent its name to the World War II anti-tank weapon due to its similar looks and Burns’ popularity among the troops who employed it in combat.

Burns was born in Arkansas (there are conflicting sources as to where) and grew up in Van Buren. As a youth, he started playing in bands. Among the instruments he played was his Bazooka invention. Eventually he came to the attention of a radio program in California. His originally non-paying assignment as a radio comic eventually led to appearances on Paul Whiteman’s coast-to-coast radio program and regular appearances on Rudy Vallee’s shows.

He eventually starred on NBC’s Kraft Music Hall radio program with Bing Crosby while also making more movies. From 1941 to 1947 he starred in his own radio show – The Arkansas Traveler which eventually became The Bob Burns Show.  During the same time period, he wrote a column for Esquire and syndicated newspaper column.

He was feted several times when he returned to Arkansas in the 1930s and 1940s.  In 1956, Burns died of cancer and is buried in California.

Lineup for April’s 11th Annual Arkansas Literary Festival Announced

1359064160-litfest_logoAs winter drones on, a person’s fancy may turn to thoughts of spring. Or to a good book to read by candlelight to pass the time in winter.

In any way, a certain harbinger of warmer weather will be the presence in April of the 11th annual Arkansas Literary Festival.

Prestigious award-winners, big names, writers for television shows, journalists, and artists are among the diverse roster of presenters who will be providing sessions at the eleventh annual Arkansas Literary Festival, April 24-27, 2014. The Central Arkansas Library System‘s Main Library campus and many other Little Rock venues are the sites for a stimulating mix of sessions, panels, special events, performances, workshops, presentations, opportunities to meet authors, book sales, and book signings. Most events are free and open to the public.

The Arkansas Literary Festival, the premier gathering of readers and writers in Arkansas, will include more than 80 presenters including featured authors Catherine Coulter, who has more than seventy million books in print; Congressman John Lewis, one of the key figures in the civil rights movement; best-selling authors Mary Roach, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Curtis Sittenfeld, and artist/illustrator Kadir Nelson; musician Rhett Miller; and education expert David L. Kirp.

This year’s Festival authors have won an impressive number and variety of distinguished awards, including ten Emmy awards, multiple National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and grants, two Pulitzer Prizes, the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (the Genius Grant), the National Book Award, the Coretta Scott King Award, the Caldecott Honor, an NAACP Image Award, an Eisner Award, a Ford Foundation Fellowship, the American Book Award, the O. Henry Prize, recognition as one of the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35, and much more.

Their works have been included in the New York TimesRolling Stone, Bon Appétit, Glamour, Playboy, Esquire, Vanity Fair, Slate, Mother Jones, and the Washington Post, among others.

Special events for adults during the Festival include a cocktail reception with the authors, a writing workshop with Catherine Coulter, a concert by Rhett Miller, and a presentation by an art historian which includes an Artists Buffet. Panels and sessions include genres and topics such as chocolate, lucid dreaming, graphic novels, the war in Iraq, short stories, Arkansas food, murder mysteries, football, dinosaurs, and gangsters.

Children’s special events include a storytime on the lawn of the Governor’s Mansion, a treasure hunt, a play based on The Little Engine That Could, and a Lego exhibit. Festival sessions for children will take place at both the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library and Learning Center, 4800 10th Street, and the Youth Services Department at the Main Library, 100 Rock Street.

At Level 4, the Main Library’s teen center, special events for teens include a robotics demonstration and a panel on comic book conventions.

Through the Writers In The Schools (WITS) initiative, the Festival will provide presentations by several authors for Pulaski county elementary, middle, and senior high schools and area colleges.

Support for the Literary Festival is provided by sponsors including Central Arkansas Library System; Friends of Central Arkansas Libraries (FOCAL); Arkansas Humanities Council; Department of Arkansas Heritage; Fred K. Darragh Jr. Foundation; Mosaic Templars Cultural Center; ProSmart Printing; KUAR FM 89.1; Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau; Arkansas Democrat Gazette; Sync; Arkansas Life; William J. Clinton Presidential Center; Oxford American; Landers FIAT of Benton; MacArthur Museum of Arkansas Military History; Arkansas Times; Wright, Lindsey & Jennings LLP; University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; Historic Arkansas Museum ; Christ Church, Little Rock’s Downtown Episcopal Church; Witt Stephens Jr. Central Arkansas Nature Center; Arkansas Library Association; Goss Management Company, LLC; Henderson State University; Hendrix College Project Pericles Program; Pulaski Technical College; Arkansas Arts Center; River’s Edge Media; Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre; Rockefeller Elementary School; Gibbs Elementary School; Hemingway-Pfeiffer Museum and Educational Center; Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow; Arkansas Governor’s Mansion; Hendrix College Creative Writing; University of Arkansas at Little Rock English Department; University of Arkansas at Little Rock Department of Rhetoric and Writing; Pyramid Art, Books & Custom Framing/Hearne Fine Art; Stickyz Rock ‘n’ Roll Chicken Shack; Literacy Action of Central Arkansas; National Park Service Central High School National Historic Site; Tales from the South; and Power 92 Jams. The Arkansas Literary Festival is supported in part by funds from the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Author! Author!, a cocktail reception with the authors, will be Friday, April 25, at 8 p.m.; tickets are $25 in advance, and $40 at the door, and go on sale at beginning Tuesday, April 1. Author! Author! tickets will also be available for purchase at the Main Library and River Market Books & Gifts, 120 River Market Avenue.

The Arkansas Literary Festival is a project of the Central Arkansas Library System. The Festival’s mission is to encourage the development of a more literate populace. A group of dedicated volunteers assists Festival Coordinator Brad Mooy with planning the Festival. Jay Jennings is the 2014 Festival Chair. Other committee chairs include Katherine Whitworth, Talent Committee; Lisa Donovan, Youth Programs; and Amy Bradley-Hole, Moderators.

For more information about the 2014 Arkansas Literary Festival, visit, or contact Brad Mooy at or 501-918-3098. For information on volunteering at the Festival, contact Angela Delaney or 501-918-3095.