Koo koo kazoo! Hum a little tune on January 28th, National Kazoo Day. This tiny humster was invented in the 1840s by Alabama Vest, who asked clockmaker Thaddeus Von Klegg to make the instrument to his specifications. It made its debut at the Georgia State Fair in 1852 as the “Down South Submarine.”
Make no mistake, the kazoo is a musical instrument in the mirliton family, not a toy (but it is an instrument to be enjoyed by all ages!) Originally made of wood or metal, the kazoo could be heard in popular music through the mid-1900s. It is a formed tube, with both ends of the tube open. The larger, flattened end is the mouthpiece. A third opening is located at the top of the kazoo. The hole is connected to a chamber, where a wax membrane oscillates freely when there is air movement within the kazoo’s tube. The membrane, or resonator, is responsible for the quality and tone.
Business is Humming
Commercial production of the kazoo started around 1912, by salesman Emil Sorg. He discovered one of Vest and Klegg’s instruments on a business trip, and he was intrigued. He eventually teamed up with a Buffalo, NY tool and die maker, Michael McIntyre. By 1913, McIntyre split with Sorg. He turned to metal factory owner Harry Richardson, and the two began mass production of the kazoo in 1914. The company, located in Eden, NY became known as The Original American Kazoo Company. The company still produces kazoos today.
The kazoo is still a part of our music today. Listen to these songs and find the kazoo music:
- The Logical Song – Supertramp
- Corporal Clegg – Pink Floyd
- Lovely Rita – The Beatles
- Crosstown Traffic – Jimi Hendrix
- San Francisco Bay Blues – Eric Clapton
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