Bob Burns was an American radio and film comedian during the 1930s and 1940s. Early in his career he was billed as Robert Burns.
He was born Robin Burn in Greenwood, Arkansas. When he was three years old, his family moved to Van Buren, Arkansas. As a young child, Burns was playing trombone and cornet in the Queen City Silver Cornet Band. At 13, he formed his own string band. Practicing in the back of Hayman’s Plumbing Shop one night, he picked up a length of gas pipe and blew into it, creating an unusual sound. With modifications, this became a musical instrument he named a bazooka. A photograph shows him playing his invention in the Silver Cornet Band.
During World War I Burns enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. He sailed to France with the 11th Regiment, U.S. Marines, AEF, and as a sergeant became the leader of the Marine Corps’s jazz band. he became known for his “bazooka” – made from stove pipes and a whiskey funnel.
Following the war, Burns played his novelty instrument on radio programs. Functioning like a crude trombone, his musical bazooka had a narrow range, but this was intentional. Burns used it as a prop when telling hillbilly stories and jokes. During World War II, GIs borrowed the name for their handheld anti-tank rocket launchers.