Author Topic: How a World War I jazz-playing Marine gave us the best weapon name ever  (Read 585 times)

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Online Elderberry

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Navy Times By Todd South 9/3/2021

Arkansas native Bob Burns enlisted in the Marine Corps during World War I and sailed to France in 1918 as part of the 11th Regiment.

The artillery detachment converted quickly to infantry for trench fighting but saw little action, allowing time for Sgt. Burns, the lead in the Marine Corps’ jazz band, to fashion a homemade instrument that would become a part of combat lore for decades to come.

Back in the States the following year, a newspaper article noted that Burns’ deft jazz playing was drawing in young men to a Marine Corps recruiting office in New York City, according to Sept 1919 edition of the New York Evening Telegram.

We play everything from Berlin (Irving) to Mr. Beethoven and will tackle anything except a funeral march,” said Robbie (Bob) Burns. “The outfit consists of two violins, a banjo, piano, drum, and the bazooka.”

Bazooka. The word traces its origins back to “bazoo,” a slang term for mouth that, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, may have come from the Dutch term for trumpet, “bazuin.”

“According to tales told by the Marines, the Melody Six are the snappiest, zippiest, jazziest aggregation of tune artists in any branch of Uncle Sam’s service,” the newspaper article noted in a section adjacent to Burns’ own instructions to building that very item: “Two pieces of gas pipe, one tin funnel, a little axle grease and a lot of perseverance.”

More: https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-marine-corps/2021/09/03/how-a-world-war-i-jazz-playing-marine-gave-us-the-best-weapon-name-ever/