"Burl Ives was one of six children born to a Scottish-Irish farming family in Jasper County, Illinois. He first sang in public for a soldiers' reunion when he was 4. In high school he learned the banjo and played fullback, intending to become a football coach when he enrolled at Eastern Illinois State Teacher's College in 1927. He dropped out in 1930 and wandered, hitching rides, doing odd jobs, street singing.
Summer stock in the late '30s led to a job with CBS radio in 1940; through his "Wayfaring Stranger" he popularized many of the folksongs he had collected in his travels. By the 1960s he had hits on both popular and country charts. He recorded over 30 albums for Decca and another dozen for Columbia. In 1964 he was singer-narrator of Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) (TV), an often-repeated Christmas television special. His Broadway debut was in 1938, though he is best remembered for creating the role of Big Daddy in the 1950s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958).
His four-decade, 30+ movie career began as a singing cowboy in Smoky (1946) and reached its peak with (again) the Big Daddy role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and an Oscar for supporting actor in The Big Country (1958), both in 1958. He officially retired to Anacortes, Washington, at age eighty though he continued to do frequent benefit performances."