National Kazoo Day on January 28th recognizes nearly 200 years of kazoo music in the United States.
- Alabama Vest of Macon Georgia made the first Kazoo in the 1840s. The instrument requires little effort to create a sound (though some skill is necessary to make intelligible music) the kazoo adds both comedic punctuations to just about any childhood song.
- Inspired by the African horn, the Mirliton, made from bone, gourds and a variety of other materials, Vest partnered with Thaddeus Von Clegg to produce his design in metal. Clegg, a German clockmaker, took Vest’s idea and put it into production.
- The first U.S. patent for a toy musical instrument with the proposed name of “kazoo” was submitted to the U.S. Patent office by Warren H. Frost and granted patent number 270,543 on January 9, 1883.
- Along came traveling salesman, Emil Sorg. He took great interest in the kazoo and carried the idea back to Western New York in 1912 where he partnered with Michael McIntyre.
- In 1915, McIntyre partnered with Harry Richardson, and they established The Original American Kazoo Company which began producing metal kazoos. They are still in production today in Eden, NY.
- The kazoo was played often in popular music in the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s
- Kazoos can be made of plastic, metal, wood or other materials. Each has unique sound qualities
- The tone quality of a kazoo is determined by the quality of the membrane or resonator
- You don’t blow into a kazoo, you HUM into it
- To produce a good sound, a user should hum into the kazoo or make the sounds ‘rrr’, ‘doo’, ‘who’ or ‘brrr’ and avoid blowing, and in doing so, a buzz-like sound is added to those made by the user.
- Kazoos are not toys – they are musical instruments in the mirliton or membranophone family
- Kazoo are NOT related to vuvuzelas
- There is a museum dedicated to the kazoo, located in South Carolina’s Beaufort in the United States, which opened in 2010.
- Kazoos were first used in a professional music recording in 1921 by the Original Dixieland Jass (or Jazz) Band, in the song ‘Crazy Blues’.
- The Beatles use kazoos in their song “Lovely Rita” and Jimi Hendrix used the instrument in his song “Crosstown Traffic” to help accentuate the blown-out speaker sound he was looking for. Frank Zappa was also a fan, incorporating the sound whenever he wanted to add a comedic touch to his songs.
- The Mound City Blue Blowers were one of the most famous bands to incorporate kazoo into their music, achieving quite a few hits in the 1920s. Non-kazoo operating members of their band played a wax-paper-covered comb, a banjo, a suitcase played with whiskbrooms and a guitar. (Video)
- Barbara Stewart was one of the most famous kazooists of the last hundred years. She started out as a classically trained singer and then moved on to form a quartet called “Kazoophony.” Ms. Stewart may be the only person on earth to be considered a “kazoo virtuoso,” and appeared at such venues as the Carnegie Hall and The Tonight Show.
- Ms. Stewart passed away in September of last year, but before she died, she did make one last contribution to the art of kazoo playing. On March 14, 2011, she led the audience of Royal Albert Hall in a performance that broke the Guinness World Record for Largest Kazoo Ensemble, with an amazing 3,910 participants. It’s not the most harmonious song you’ll ever hear, but for having almost 4,000 musicians, it’s still pretty impressive. (See Video below)