"the down-south submarine"
August 16, 2006 7:57 AM   Subscribe

Macon, Georgia, the 1840's. African-American Alabama Vest brings his design for a musical instrument to German clockmaker Thaddeus von Clegg. The modern KAZOO is born. It sees its golden age during the Jug Band era. Later it rears its buzzy head on songs by Hendrix, Queen, Red Hot Chili Peppers and many others. Originally made of metal, these days they're mostly plastic. And I, for one, agree that the humble kazoo is the ideal choice for designation as The National Instrument.
posted by flapjax at midnite (23 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The kazoo can indeed liven up a number. On 'Little Diane' by Dion & The Belmonts, the kazoo changes it from a very good tune to a classic.
posted by jonmc at 8:01 AM on August 16, 2006

A tradition in my family for many, many years at family get-togethers (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Channukah, Birthdays, and my Grandparent's 50th Anniversary) was to breakout dozens of kazoos and have a kazoo symphony/sing along.

This post makes me so happy.
posted by piratebowling at 8:14 AM on August 16, 2006

Great post. Never occurred to me that those were kazoos in "Crosstown Traffic." Never really thought of the kazoo as a texture element. This, of course, is but one of the reasons I am not Jimi Hendrix.
posted by kosem at 8:17 AM on August 16, 2006

Actually, the "kazoo" in Crosstown Traffic was a comb with paper in it, if I remember correctly. Hendrix apparently surprised them with that one when they got to the studio.
posted by Acey at 8:19 AM on August 16, 2006

For once, a reason to be proud to be a Georgian. I had no idea the Kazoo was invented in Macon.

I have to say that the metal ones are great and the plastic ones suck.
posted by TedW at 8:24 AM on August 16, 2006

More kazoo songs here.
posted by Acey at 8:25 AM on August 16, 2006

Also: Ever wondered what a Kazoo sounds like through a wah-wah pedal? (I don't know quite what to make of this...)
posted by Acey at 8:32 AM on August 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Damn my lack of speakers at work! I gotta hear that...
posted by InfidelZombie at 9:01 AM on August 16, 2006

The kazoo through the wah sounds crappy (it does over a MIDI version of the Dr. Who theme, anyway). Amusing website, though.
posted by zonkout at 9:09 AM on August 16, 2006

Electric kazoo.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:45 AM on August 16, 2006

What about the autoharp? Also invented in America, but far less recognized. I teased my musician girlfriend that I would get her an autoharp for her birthday. She was very delighted when just last night she opened her present to find a lovely Mandolin.
posted by parmanparman at 9:46 AM on August 16, 2006

Great post!
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:48 AM on August 16, 2006

We had wedding kazoos at our reception ...
posted by scruss at 10:00 AM on August 16, 2006

There are some lovely wooden ones, too. I made several very similar to these for Christmas a few years ago. The best part was that no one knew what they were. I'd tell someone to put it to her mouth and hum, and the look of surprise and delight was absolutely priceless.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:30 AM on August 16, 2006

I love kazoos. A kazoo, however, can often be just annoying. This theory extends to hand drums as well -- some instruments are just more fun to play than they are to hear by themselves. So, I find it helpful to carry several kazoos at a time. That way, when someone gives me that look that says "enough with the kazoo already," I can just whip out an extra one so that annoyance can quickly turn into collaboration.
posted by cubby at 10:30 AM on August 16, 2006

I'll second stickycarpet as a satisfied owner of an electric. It sounds brute-i-ful thru an amp; just picked up a cheap EFX unit for it.
posted by omnidrew at 11:02 AM on August 16, 2006

I too have an electric kazoo, and have run it through a cheap multi-FX unit. So far just for fun and it hasn't appeared in any of my releases, but maybe someday.
posted by Foosnark at 11:14 AM on August 16, 2006

Ahh blow it out yer kazoo
posted by tadellin at 11:31 AM on August 16, 2006

Here's some classic distorted kazoo for you. Mmm-mm, Kazooilicious.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 11:35 AM on August 16, 2006

Can anyone prove wah kazoo site has nothing to do with b3ta?
posted by aubilenon at 1:54 PM on August 16, 2006

At last! An excuse for a Bob Scruton link. Truly a kazoo giant.
posted by popkinson at 2:17 PM on August 16, 2006

cubby, this gem that you slipped into your comment:
"annoyance can quickly turn into collaboration", is the Quote of the Week, in my humble estimation.

Acey one of the links you included in your comments was to a page I'd already linked to in the original post! Thanks anyway, though.

StickyCarpet and omnidrew thanks for the link to the Kazooka. Think I might get me one of those...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:02 PM on August 16, 2006

Everyone in our jug band is required to have a kazoo on them at all times, no matter what other instruments they play.
posted by Poagao at 12:14 AM on August 17, 2006

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