Today is National Kazoo Day when kazoo players celebrate the long history of the instrument in America.
German clockmaker Thaddeus Von Clegg constructed a prototype which Vest introduced at the 1852 Georgia State Fair as the “Down-South Submarine.”
The closest we can get to verifying that account is to confirm that a state fair did occur in Macon, Georgia in 1852.
The modern metal kazoo was patented by George D. Smith of Buffalo, New York, on May 27, 1902.
We don’t know why it wasn’t mass-produced until a dozen years later. The factory, which became known as the Original Kazoo Company, now operates a museum open to kazoo fans who are willing to make the pilgrimage to Eden, New York.
Down south? The Kazoo Museum in Beaufort, South Carolina, opened in 2007, has a “collection of nearly two-hundred unique kazoo-related items.” It’s located in a kazoo factory on 12 John Galt Road, an address sure to delight Ayn Rand fans.
Budding kazooists should keep in mind that the kazoo is a membranophone, which modifies the player’s voice via a vibrating membrane. Players must hum, not blow, into the kazoo, varying pitch and volume to produce different sounds.
Because no advanced musical training is required, a player has the potential to become a virtuoso almost immediately. That fact may also be what keeps the kazoo from getting the respect it deserves.
Kazoo lovers across America are trying to change that with the Keep America Humming Campaign to Make the Kazoo the National Instrument. Campaign founder Barbara Stewart says:
“We have a national bird, a national song, and a national debt. Why not kazoo as a national instrument?” Why not?
Happy National Kazoo Day!