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Jethro Burns

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Biography

Kenneth C. Burns (March 10, 1920 – February 4, 1989) was an American country musician, comedian, and mandolin player. He was better known by his stage name Jethro from his years with Henry D. Haynes as part of the comedic musical duo Homer & Jethro beginning in 1936.

Burns was born in Conasauga, Tennessee on March 10, 1920. His family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee when he was three. In 1936, he auditioned for a talent contest at Knoxville radio station WNOX where he met Henry Haynes, also 16. The two formed a duo and WNOX program director Lowell Blanchard gave them the stage names Homer and Jethro after forgetting their names on the air.

Burns was drafted into the US Army and served in Europe during World War II and reunited with Haynes, who had served in the Pacific, in Knoxville in 1945. By 1947, the duo moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and were working at WLW on the station’s Midwestern Hayride. They signed with King Records, where they worked as a house band and recorded singles on their own, and two years later signed with RCA Records. The pair were fired along with other stars by new management at WLW in 1948, and after a brief tour, they moved to Springfield, Missouri and performed on KWTO with Chet Atkins, the Carter Family and Slim Wilson.
In 1949, they moved to Chicago, Illinois and played at the Chicago Theatre. Between shows, they would go to WLS to appear live on National Barn Dance. While performing on WLS, Burns met and married his wife, Lois Johnson, who he called Gussie. Her twin sister Leona was married to Atkins.

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