[Ads-l] Antedating of the Bazooka (the instrument) 1918

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Wed Nov 2 17:06:24 UTC 2016

Reviving old thread.

In 2007, Sam Clements posted a January 1918 cite to a musical instrument called a "bazooka" that was invented on a Marine Corps training base in South Carolina.

Before he found this cite, the OED had the musical instrument "bazooka" from 1935, purportedly invented and used by a comedian named Bobbie Burns.

I do not have an earlier cite, but a 1919 article about a Jazz band at a New York City Marine Corps Recruiting office credits the invention of the instrument to Sergeant "Robbie Burn," who reportedly played it in Europe before playing at the recruiting office.  I assume that it is the same man.  The photograph of the instrument actually looks a lot like the later bazooka weapon.

The Evening World (New York), September 3, 1919, page 9<http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030193/1919-09-03/ed-1/seq-9/#date1=1789&index=0&rows=20&searchType=advanced&language=&sequence=0&words=bazooka+Bazooka&proxdistance=5&date2=1922&ortext=&proxtext=&phrasetext=bazooka&andtext=&dateFilterType=yearRange&page=1>. (Chronicling America; photograph included).

"The United States Marine Corps Melody Six is (or are) back from Europe, including Sergt. Robert Burn and bazooka.  The bazooka is the last word in jazz.  Sergt. Burn invented it, and plays it.  You can hear the Melody Six, including Sergt. Burn and the bazooka, any day you want to drop around to the Marine Corps recruiting office at No. 24 East 23d Street. . . . 'We play,' says Robbie Burn, 'everything from Berlin (Irving) to Mr. Beethoven.' . . . ."

So the OED was right, Bobbie Burns did invent it, but twenty years earlier than they knew.

Nope, not the weapon from 1943.

OED has 1935 for the "musical" instrument described as "two gas-pipes and a whiskey funnel."  HDAS suggests that comedian Bob Burns created the instrument in the late '30's.  That was certainly in all the papers at the time.

Using Newspaperarchive  17 January 1918, _The Waukeesha(WI) Freeman_  pg 6, col. 5

     Port Royal, S.C.Jan, 15.--U.S. Marines at this station have a new invention.  It's called a "bazooka."  No, it isn't a cannon, nor a flying machine, nor a machine gun, but when in operation it will make you "shake your feet."  The "bazooka" is a simple contrivance, consisting of but two pieces of gas pipe and a funnel, but it's secret is in the playing.  It is said that the Marine Corps Jass Band is the only one in the world that boasts of a "bazooka."

I 'think' this is the earliest cite for this homemade invention, which has thousands of later hits, used in Vaudeville, etc.  But I only searched Newspaperarchive.  Others may find earlier.

Pretty easy to deduce why the weapon of WWII was referred to as a "bazooka."

Sam Clements

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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