Jazz musician, television actor and developmental research psychologist Roger V. Burton died Nov. 30 at his home in Santa Monica. He was 90 years old.
Burton began as a professional jazz trombonist at the age of 11, playing in big bands and on studio film soundtracks. Earning himself the nickname “Schoolboy” for doing homework between set breaks, he started college at University of Southern California at the age of 16 and graduated with a BA and BM in music, as well as an MA in Sciences.
His musical history includes playing with Nat King Cole, Peggy Lee, Andre Previn, Johnny Ray, Frankie Laine, the Lennie Niehaus Octet, The Ink Spots, the Chuck Cabot Band, and the Dick Pierce Band. He was a regular on Ernst Gold studio recordings for films as well as The Hoagy Carmichael Show on NBC.
After taking lessons from friend and jazz legend Charles Mingus, Burton switched to the bass and began playing in smaller combos. However, this would not be Burton’s last career change, as he went on to study psychology at Harvard University after writing a response to a study that claimed musicians were irresponsible. In 1967 he worked with Swiss child developmental psychologist Jean Piaget, and later with John Whiting.
For the last few decades of his life, Burton changed careers yet again to become a television actor. He played Philips on Fox’s “The Cool Kids,” Zach Galifianakis’ father-in-law on “Baskets” and had roles on “Shameless,” “The Clapper,” “My Name is Earl,” “Fargo,” “Super Clyde,” “American Body Shop,” “Monk,” “House,” “The George Lopez Show,” and “Up All Night,” and appeared on “America Idol,” “Good Morning America,” and “The Tonight Show.” He also starred in upcoming short film “Old Guy” alongside Peri Gilpin (“Frasier”), produced by his daughters’ film company Five Sisters Productions.
Ten years ago, he and his late wife, novelist Gabrielle Burton, climbed to the base camp of Mt. Kilimanjaro at 80 years old.
Burton is survived by his daughters, Maria, Jennifer, Ursula, Gabrielle, and Charity, his sons-in-law, David Mathieson, Aniruddh Patel, Graeme Boone, Darin Henry, Steve Duron, his sister JoDe Kielhofer, nieces, nephews, and his eight grandchildren.