Buddy Ebsen: The original Swiss Army Man
He was an absolute renaissance man.
In a 1974 interview with Staunton, Virginia's Daily News Leader, Buddy Ebsen spoke at length on the way Barnaby Jones came to be. But, more interestingly, the profile piece detailed, at length, some of his accomplishments outside of Hollywood.
It turns out that Buddy Ebsen could do just about anything, really.
By '74, Ebsen had been many things. He was, of course, the star of Beverly Hillbillies. While the show was populated by an entire Clampett clan, Ebsen's Jed carried the show. After all, it was Jed that went a-shootin' at some food, only to find that up through the ground there came a bubblin' crude. Oil, that is. Black gold, etc., etc.
But, many people may not know that Ebsen was also a serious history buff. His research about the Civil War led to a play that he wrote called Champagne General about George McClellan. The script, which featured details about the controversial Northern general, was Ebsen's second piece produced on Broadway, following 1948's Honest John.
He was a dancer, as well. His physical talents brought him to Broadway again in one of the Ziegfeld Follies. The elaborate revues elevated the vaudeville and variety-show traditions to Broadway standards and included lavish sets and orchestrations. There, he starred with his sister Vilma, who also joined him in a series of MGM musicals.
He was a talented songwriter. Throughout his career, Buddy Ebsen penned many a tune, including titles like "Be Sure You're Right," "Angelica," "Behave Yourself," and "Handsome Stranger."
As if all of those talents weren't enough to take up a lifetime, Ebsen was additionally a sailing enthusiast. His interest in the sport led to owning a boat-building company.
One thing Ebsen was not, though, was a narcissist.
Even when discussing something as potentially low-stakes as his sailing hobby, Ebsen was not a braggart. Rather than list some statistics or the exact win-loss record, Ebsen told the reporter, "We've won a lot more races than we've lost." That's some serious modesty for a man who starred in not one, but TWO classic American television series!