Gary Burghoff said jazz was ”the source of all American music”

Intro to music: Gary Burghoff was known for being a jazz musician before he was known for being an actor in M*A*S*H.

Before Gary Burghoff was known as an actor, he was mainly known for his music. You may remember the M*A*S*H episode “Showtime,” where his character, Radar O’Reilly, played the drums for the 4077th.

That wasn’t Burghoff’s first time behind a drum set, in fact, the lovable man with a teddy bear in hand was a well-known jazz drummer. He loved jazz so much that he called it “the source of all American music.”

He started learning how to play and read music at a young age. He played the trumpet in school and eventually moved on to play the drums, and by the time he was a 13-year-old he had already started his own band

In a 1981 interview with Hartford Courant, Burghoff said he grew up in a musical family. The Connecticut native eventually moved to New York, in order to have a better shot at a career in both acting and music. For Burghoff, his hometown of Bristol and jazz became inseperable.

“I can remember peeking in the family room and seeing my brother on the clarinet, my mother on the accordion and my father playing tenor sax,” Burghoff said. “I guess you could say that rhythm was very much a part of my psyche.”

According to the interview, he would travel and perform regularly in New Orleans, a city famous for jazz and riverboats. Burghoff said he used to dream of performing on the riverboats. Burghoff performed in many jazz clubs in New York, as well as going on the road and performing  in the circus.

In 1967, Burghoff landed the leading role in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which became the start to Burghoff’s massive success.

During the time of the interview, Burghoff had a seven-piece band called Mardi Gras Celebration All-Star Just For Fun Dixieland Band. Whew, now that’s a band name. He also shot three public specials with the U.S. Army Band.

Burghoff saw many successes while playing and performing music, he had written hundreds of songs and he became an icon both on TV and with a pair of drum sticks in hand.

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