“Tell ’em what you’re gonna do and get ‘er done.”
Kenneth Burre or “Polly” as he was called lived in Tebbetts, Callaway County, Missouri. When I met Polly he was a retired electrician, part-time luthier and piano re-builder and active in music and civics activities in his small community. Polly was best known among Missouri’s fiddling community as the organizer/promoter of the annual Tebbetts fiddling competition, local dance fiddler, and as a Master of Ceremonies at contests throughout mid-Missouri.
The Tebbetts contest was always among my favorites. It was always on the 4th of July and featured plenty of cold beer and barbecued mutton sandwiches that were second to none. Polly organized this contest, enlisted the judges and then served as M. C. Being fond of piano accompaniment himself, Polly always provided a piano for the stage. In one the earliest of these contests I attended in that late 70s Nolan Boone of Mexico would always be there with his wife pounding out the rhythm on the keyboard. Also, playing piano at Tebbetts was Bertha “Bertie” Sanford, who played piano in Polly’s dance band.
As an M. C. Polly was well respected by all the fiddlers and their seconds. He tried diligently to get every player’s name correct (sometimes better than others) and always preceded every fiddler’s performance with the instruction to “Tell ’em what you’re gonna do and get ‘er done.”
In 1987 the fiddle was proclaimed the State Instrument of Missouri by then Governor John Ashcroft. At a celebration for the passing of this bill later in the year Polly had his picture taken at the Truman Office Complex. He was never more proud than when the picture ended up in the State of Missouri Blue Book. According to Polly, the photographer told him he “just looked like a fiddler.”
The Following Obituary Appeared in the Jefferson City News Tribune:
Frederick Kenneth “Polly” Burre, 83, Tebbetts, died April 11, 1999, at St. Marys Health Center.
He was born March 20, 1916, in New Bloomfield, a son of Walter and Merl Smith Burre. He was married Dec. 25, 1940, in Fulton, to Loretta Boffa, who survives at the home.
He attended Mokane High School and worked for Meyer Electric until retirement. A World War II veteran, he earned a Bronze Star. He also worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.
He was a member of Tebbetts United Methodist Church, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 257, where he was a past president, and Independent Order of the Odd Fellows 596. He helped organize and was a past president of Callaway County Water District1. He was a member of the Missouri Old Time Fiddler’s Association, Fulton VFW, and Eagles of Jefferson City.
Other survivors include: three daughters, Sheila Guthrie and Polly Ann Burre, both of Tebbetts, and Carol Sanderson, Jefferson City; two sisters, Olive Merle Shouse and Lois Bess, both of Tebbetts; and two grandchildren.
Two infant daughters, Janice Ann Burre and Suzanne Burre, preceded him in death.
Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Tebbetts United Methodist Church. The Rev. Harold Ferrell will officiate. Burial will be in Liberty Cemetery.
Visitation will be from 5-8 p.m. Tuesday at Maupin Funeral Home in Fulton.
Memorials are suggested to Liberty Cemetery Inc., in care of Maupin Funeral Home, 301 Douglas Blvd., Fulton, Mo., 65251.