What is a Kazoo?
The kazoo is based on the African mirliton, and was a popular African-American folk instrument during the 1800's. The manufactured kazoo was invented by Alabama Vest, made to his specifications by Thaddeus Von Clegg in Georgia in the mid 1840's. A traveling salesman by the name of Emil Sorg brought the idea of manufacturing them in Western New York in about 1912. He teamed up with Michael McIntyre and Harry Richardson and began producing them in 1914, and received a patent in 1923. A kazoo is a toy wind instrument, usually made of plastic, metal or wood. It is generally shaped like a tube with a hole in the top, the hole is covered with a thin membrane.
How did this all begin?
During the winter of 1991/92 two fellow employees, Spike Creamer and Loretta Sullivan were discussing the possibility of getting a group of people together and joining in the camaraderie of the Saint Patrick's Day celebrations, by marching in the parade. The question was "What can we all do?" Spike suggested, lets start a Kazoo band. Spike being quite a Kazoo aficionado in his own right knew he could train the rest of the group. If they could get a group of at least twenty people together they would march. So the phone calls began! What did you say? You want me to do what? What are you guy's nuts? Sure sign me up!!! And practice began!!
Practice makes perfect!
A common mistake in attempting to play a kazoo is to pick it up and blow through the kazoo. A trained kazooist always seems to get a kick out of the new recruit and his understandable confusion. Most people say to hum into the kazoo is correct, but others like the "do" method, saying "do" into the kazoo. Practice began once a week at local pubs, with bartenders passing out earplugs to the other patrons. But we knew we were wonderful!! We had practice once a week starting in January, our local parade is always the first Saturday in March. We all needed to learn the tunes/words to some Irish songs, so with tape player in hand Loretta and Spike began.
The First Parade Day
We had 26 people show up. Loretta gave each a green satin sash with BC Kazoo hand stenciled on the sash. We each received a green plastic hat, and a plastic kazoo. We were ready!! The anticipation mounted, and then step off time was upon us. We rounded the first corner not knowing what to expect of the crowd when they laid eyes upon us. We lifted our kazoos to our mouths and began to play. They loved us! People actually came up out of the crowd and asked if they could join us and march with us the following year. We were a hit, we did it!!!
Where We Are Now
Now our group numbers in the neighborhood of one hundred and thirty kazoo players, each one a kazooist in their own right. We also have a eight piece percussion section, consisting of bells, two base drums, two snare drums, tri-toms, cymbals, and even a bordhran!!! We have designed and made our own shirts, and hats and even entered floats in past parades and won for the most original! We have been approached by many other parade committees and asked to march in many other parades. The camaraderie of our group is infectious, each year more people request to join us and share in our celebration!!! So if you are in Binghamton near the time of the "Holy Season" St. Patrick's Day, say hello to us as we march by OR join us in the celebrations of the day!!