Action Bowlers

The 1960s Were The Golden Era Of Action Bowling

Bo Burton: The Interview
Well, Bo, legend has it that in addition to your tour success you were one heck of an action bowler and actually put yourself through school as a kid with money you made in bowling matches. How much truth is there to that?

BB: Well, yeah. I bowled anybody, anyplace, anytime. And there was action on tour when I started on tour. Limongello and I used to bowl action when he was around. The action on the PBA tour quit when they started doing lane conditions and tricks. Once you started getting unequal oil and trick balls it ruined the action.

When I was in the Army I bowled in every state. When I was stationed in Denver I won a ton of money bowling action there. I bowled a ton of home and home matches, I bowled a lot of games for a lot of money – more than these guys today, trust me. And I put up my own money. How come none of these guys showed up for that big-money sweeper the PBA was trying to put on? You know, all these big blowhards. I guarantee you Bo Burton would have showed up. But I don't think they would have been bowling with their own money. If they had to come up with $20,000 out of their checkbook, not from anyone else, that's a different story, and that's how I bowled. I bowled for my own money.

So what's the most amount of money you every won bowling a night of action?

BB: In 1962 I won $17,000 one night and that was in between going to St. Louis University and whatnot, but I won $17,000 one night. Basically by 1962 they had barred me from every place in St. Louis, then I started bowling on tour. I used to go to Chicago to a Place called Marzano's. I got on the microphone and I said 'Anybody who wants to bowl action I'll bowl you.' And the guys who were going to bowl action from New York were all sitting around watching me bowl. I bowled everybody all the time, you just couldn't get anymore action on tour.

That's how I got back into bowling at Stuart Lanes here in Florida. My oldest son was bowling league and he came home one night saying he just lost all his money. So I went down there and it was some regional guys that were just better than him. So I started practicing and then one night sometime back in 2003 I was in pretty good shape and they said 'Hey Nelson you gonna bowl?' and I said 'Yeah, Nelson's gonna bowl, but this one is." So I bowled and just whacked them all that night. They figure old guys like me they can wear me out but I just kept getting better. Nobody could last the length with me. If you're going to bowl me 30 games you're going to lose. I was the best conditioned athlete on tour, everyone knows that. Nobody was close. I was closing in on under a five-minute mile running. Look at my record in the All-Stars. I bowled endurance tournaments, 100 games. I bowled another guy in a 100-game match and won, that's 100 games in a row. It takes 24 hours. So, I did my fair share of bowling but the only reason I stayed in the bowling business full time was the telecasts. I enjoyed doing it and it was my profession.