Buddy Ebsen was an American character actor and dancer. A performer for seven decades, he had starring roles as Jed Clampett in the 1960s television series, The Beverly Hillbillies and as the title character in the 1970s detective series Barnaby Jones.
He was born Christian Rudolph Ebsen, Jr. in Belleville, Illinois. His father, Christian Rudolph Ebsen, Sr., was Danish and his mother, Frances, was Latvian. He was reared in Belleville until the age of ten, when his family moved to Palm Beach County, Florida. After a brief stay, Ebsen and his family, in 1920, relocated to Orlando, Florida. Ebsen and his sisters learned to dance at the dance studio his father operated in Orlando.
He graduated from Orlando High School in 1926. Initially interested in a medical career, Ebsen attended the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida, from 1926 to 1927, and then Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, from 1927 to 1928. Family financial problems caused by the collapse of the Florida land boom forced him to leave college at the age of twenty.
Ebsen left Orlando in the summer of 1928 to try his luck as a dancer. When he arrived in New York, he had $26.75 in his pocket, equal to $ today. He and his sister Vilma Ebsen formed an act and performed in supper clubs and in vaudeville — they were known as “The Baby Astaires”. On Broadway they appeared as members of the chorus in Whoopee, Flying Colors and the Ziegfeld Follies of 1934. A rave review from Walter Winchell, who saw them perform in Atlantic City, led to a booking at the Palace Theatre, the pinnacle of the vaudeville world.