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Barnyard Pete
Born:  November 23, 1907
Died:  August 4, 1982
WHO Iowa Barn Dance Frolic
WHO Des Moines, IA
WOC Davenport, IA

About The Artist

His stage name was Barnyard Pete; in real life, he was Mervyn Oliver Burkhardt. He was born in 1907 in Mazon, a village in Grundy County, Illinois, the son of Edward and Grace Jones Burkhardt. He would eventually move to Milan, IL.

Oliver Burkhardt aka Barnyard Pete - March 1938 Oliver began entertaining folks and getting writeups in the local newspaper for his efforts. In 1925, at the age of 18, he entertained an audience at an Odd Fellows gathering in East Moline. The audience enjoyed "...whistling solos, and several readings."

In June of 1930, he provided the entertainment at the June dinner meeting of the East Moline Association of Commerce at the Short Hills Country Club. At that time the news article noted he was popular with radio fans and had been a '...feature attraction on both vaudeville and chautauqua circuits.' Readers learned he had just returned from engagements in and around the Chicago area where he gained audience appreciation for his "...series of bird imitations and musical numbers which harmoniously combined a variety of bird calls."

He along with Lars Larson (LeRoy Klove) provided entertainment for the Dads' Club meeting at Longfellow school where the business topic was fixing city finances. Barnyard Pete they wrote did "character portrayals of humans, animals and birds." Cleo Wray provided accompaniment for them.

In 1933, Barnyard Pete was part of a community night gathering at Long View Park in Rock Island, IL. It was the last, large public event to be held at the park for the season. Barnyard Pete was said to be an "...imitator of animal sounds." A crowd of over 2,000 persons attended the event.

In February 1935, he took part in a minstrel and revue entitled, "Watch Everything" that was to be held at the Rock Island high school auditorium put on by the Young Men's and Young Ladies' Clubs of St. Paul's Church. There was an expectation that attendance could surpass the previous year's number of 1,200 attendees for two shows. The auditorium held 750 people. Oliver Burkhardt was make-up artist.

In March 1938, he presented his original act that was known as "Echoes From The Fields And Forest." It was done at the Davenport High School basketball banquet. An article mentions that he was also on the WOC Barndance hour prior to his work with the Iowa Barn Dance Frolic on WHO. The article stated, "He is acknowledged to be one of the most talented bird and animal imitators in show business. In addition to his imitations he will also present a whistling specialty."

The weekly WLS Stand-By magazine in its June 11, 1938 issue mentioned Barnyard Pete when they wrote of a reunion he had with the Prairie Ramblers on the Alka Seltzer hour. He was said to have entertained the audience with "...those beautiful bird calls and whistling solo."

Barnyard Pete was one of a host of entertainers that performed in front of a crowd of 7,000 at the Muscatine Country Fair in July 1945.

A couple articles described his performance as "artistic whistling."

He married the former Edith M. Obert on March 12, 1927 in Valparaiso, IN. She passed away on February 8, 1980.They had a son, Oliver Clarence.

Mervyn Oliver (Barnyard Pete) Burkhardt passed away in August of 1982.

Credits & Sources

  • The Old Hayloft; Hired Hand; June 11, 1938; WLS Stand-By; Prairie Farmer; Chicago, IL
  • Two Thousand See Long View Park Program; August 16, 1933; Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL
  • O. Burkhardt Entertains at E. M. Rebekah Lodge; July 29, 1925; The Dispatch; Moline, IL
  • Heads Of Local Industries Are Feted At Dinner; June 27, 1930; The Dispatch; Moline, IL
  • Moline Lodge Stages Revue At Cathedral; December 3, 1930; Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL
  • City Finances Discussed For Dads' Meeting; May 17, 1933; Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL
  • St. Paul's Church Play Expected To Draw Large Crowd; February 19, 1935; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Radio Entertainer On D.H.S. Banquet Program Thursday; March 29, 1938; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Spreader Plant Heads Are Feted; January 10, 1942; The Dispatch; Moline, IL
  • Dance Chorus To Be Featured In Musical Play By Masquers; September 11, 1945; Quad-City Times; Davenport, IA
  • Masquer's Club Musical Production Greatly Enjoyed; September 14, 1945; Quad-City Times; Davenport, IA
  • 300 at Inaugural Of 3-Day Show Of Conservation Club; May 6, 1948; The Daily Times; Davenport, IA
  • Obituary: M. O. Burkhardt; August 5, 1982; Rock Island Argus; Rock Island, IL

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