National Kazoo Day
National Kazoo Day, which celebrates kazoos, was founded by Chaplin William Rahn, who formed and was part of the Joyful Noise Kazoo Band at the Homewood Retirement Home in Williamsport, Maryland. A kazoo is a tubelike musical instrument with uncovered ends; one end is flattened and the other end has a small circular opening. About two-thirds of the way down from the circular opening there is another circular opening; it has a chamber where there is a wax-membrane that is able to vibrate. Kazoos are made of plastic or metal and can be various sizes. Soprano kazoos are the standard sized kazoo, and there are also alto, tenor, and kaboom kazoos, which are larger and have lower pitches. Noise can be made with kazoos by singing or speaking through them, but not by simply blowing through them. They make a humming nasally sound that can be varied by partially or completely covering the membrane.
Kazoos are classified as a type of instrument with vibrating membranes called mirlitons. Kazoos are based off of the African horn-mirliton, which was made from the horn of a cow, and was used to distort voices at African tribal gatherings. The first mirlitons in Europe were eunuch flutes, and they came about in the seventeenth century. In the nineteenth century, instruments similar to the kazoo that were based off the African mirlitons were used for folk music in America.
Modern kazoos were invented in the 1840s by Alabama Vest of Macon, Georgia, along with Thaddeus Von Clegg, a German clock maker. They were first presented at the Georgia State Fair, in 1852, and were called "Down South Submarines." Years later, a traveling salesman named Emil Sorg came across them, and began commercially producing them in Western New York in 1912, after joining up with Michael McIntyre. The next year, McIntyre teamed up with Harry Richardson, who owned a big metal factory. They began mass producing them in 1914. In 1916, they renamed their company The Original American Kazoo Company; it is still in operation today, and there is also now a museum next door. They received a patent for their kazoo in 1923. Over the years kazoos have been used in some popular music, such as jazz, blues, and rock and roll, but they have usually been relegated to being a children's toy, and today are usually used in silly songs.
How to Observe
Celebrate the day by playing the kazoo. Pick up a copy of The Complete How To Kazoo to learn some playing tricks, as well as some more history of the instrument. Listen to some popular songs that have featured the kazoo, and try playing along. Visit the kazoo factory and museum in Eden, New York, where McIntyre and Richardson made their kazoos. You could also visit the kazoo factory and museum in Beaufort, South Carolina. This factory makes Kazoobie Kazoos, and is America's largest kazoo manufacturer, selling nearly one million kazoos a year. You could also join the campaign to make the kazoo America's national instrument. The International Kazoo Players Association could be joined as well.