My Kazoo

Written by Wally Amos

I recently ran across a photo of myself in 1986 in Japan opening a store with a kazoo salute.  I look pretty good in that picture.  Not so much grey hair.  But the kazoo is disappointing.  Just a standard old metal kazoo.  Now I’ve moved up to a hand-made wooden kazoo layered in bright colors.

 I am virtually never without my kazoo.  I wear it on a ribbon around my neck so as to always be ready to announce my presence, cheer a child or just amuse myself.  In my baking, I consider my kazoo-playing an important “secret ingredient” to the process, second only to the love I put in everything I make. 

 It is often said that the kazoo’s closest relative is the African horn-mirliton, with a tube made from the horn of a cow and a membrane consisting of the egg-shells of spiders.  Horn-mirlitons were used by witch doctors as far back as tribal history can trace.  There are also pretty substantial rumors that place Roman military kazoo bands leading Caesar’s legions against the Celtic hordes of Vercingetorix in 52 BC.   Pretty impressive history for such a modest instrument.

 I’ve used kazoos not only in Japan but all over.  In 1972 I celebrated my birthday in Winter Park, Florida, by visiting the children’s ward at the local hospital for a one-man kazoo concert.  In 1976, on a promotional tour in Tucson, Arizona, I ducked into a Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor and recruited some of their employees to play kazoos in an impromptu marching band announcing the arrival of a freshly made cookie which was carried on a satin pillow through the mall to a local department store. 

 In 2009, I was Grand Marshal of the 4th of July Parade in Kailua, Hawai‘i, complete with a Kazoo Band.   In 2010, I “kazooed” in Malaysia.  And last week, at a private dinner in the home of some friends, I quietly slipped away to their kitchen to whip up a batch of cookies for dessert, announcing their exit from the oven with a rousing kazoo fanfare.

 The kazoo is not often found in classical music, a rare exception being David Bedford‘s “With 100 Kazoos.”  Rather than being played by trained musicians, kazoos are handed out to members of the audience, who accompany a professional instrumental ensemble. 

 I feel I have been training all my life and can’t wait to attend a performance!  It makes me smile just thinking about it.


11 Comments

  1. F.R. Bizle   |  Tuesday, 14 June 2011 at 1:28 pm

    Interesting and fun blog that you’ve got here, Mr. Amos. I can recall the fun that my own kids had with kazoos when they were young. I’m amazed that as adults, we stop doing things that are fun. Perhaps I should turn over a new leaf and vow to get out my kid’s kazoo and go have some fun in my life. Nice work. Will likely be back to read some more.
    Thanks,
    Freddy

  2. Alicia Arnold   |  Saturday, 18 June 2011 at 7:51 am

    It seems that you are a man who knows how to have fun, Wally. I recently wrote a blog about the importance of having fun during learning.

    It’s a fact – kids learn better when they’re having fun. Actually, adults do too. To test out the theory, all you need to do is survey a group of folks who have just sat through a two hour PowerPoint meeting. How much of the presentation do you think they absorbed? In probing, I’m sure you’ll hear more about “death by PowerPoint” than tangible lessons from the meeting. The complaints you’d hear from adults are the same as the ones you’d hear from kids who are expected to sit quietly in class and absorb the lesson plan.

    I hope that you will go to my web site and read more about this. I certainly intend to read more of your blogs and I hope that you will decide to read more of mine.

    Best wishes,
    Alicia Arnold
    http://alicia-arnold.com/2011/06/14/kids-and-adults-learn-better-when-theyre-having-fun/

  3. Cool Dude   |  Monday, 27 June 2011 at 1:51 am

    Good for you that you are still enjoying your kazoo. I’m a believer that just because you get older, doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy life. Believe it or not, if you go down the toy aisle at the store, you’ll find something that is a heck of a lot of fun! I recently got an electric powered race track and it’s so cool. It has loops and cyclones and even upside down track for the cars to run on. It’s like one I had as a kid, only this one has all the parts and it works well. Not only are we having fun, but our cats are loving it. They can’t figure out how to get the cars and they often sit near or on the track and the cars zoom around them. So far, no cat injuries, just a lot of fun. Try it, Wally. You might like it.

  4. Vinson   |  Saturday, 02 July 2011 at 2:50 pm

    You came to Malaysia in 2010 and you never told anyone? I am sure if you were down here, it would’ve made the news so why the secretive visit? That’s it, you gotta come back here and let me make you dinner or something for giving the world such wonderful cookies!

    Seriously, gimme a holler when you are back in town in Malaysia again ok? Till then!

    Vinson Tan (vinsontan@gmail.com

  5. ClevelandLou   |  Wednesday, 06 July 2011 at 9:29 pm

    My father always said that we should never be too old to have fun. You and he must have gone to the same school. Ha, ha. I uderstnad how important your words are to others. People count on you to light their way. Play your kazoo with pride and God be with you, Uncle Wally.

  6. KellyGirl   |  Wednesday, 05 October 2011 at 3:18 pm

    I would have loved to have seen the faces of those people in the mall when you marched through with your cookie on the pillow. What a hoot!!! Keep on truckin’, Uncle Wally.

  7. Kazoobie Kazoos   |  Thursday, 06 October 2011 at 1:12 pm

    Wow, Wally. Thank you so much for sharing your love of kazoos with the world. We love kazoos, too. We even make chocolate kazoos. KAZOOS ARE THE BEST! Thanks again, Wally. Please don’t ever lose your zest for life and for the kazoo.

  8. V. Tarkett   |  Saturday, 08 October 2011 at 10:41 am

    It was a dreary day here yesterday, so I just took to piddeling around online and realized that this was a really interesting article. I loved your cookies. Now I love your blog. What a great philosophy in life.

  9. Geena   |  Sunday, 16 October 2011 at 11:57 am

    This really brought back the memories. I used to have a kazoo when I was a kid. I loved that darn thing. I drove my mother crazy with it. Thanks for the memories.

  10. Rick Moskovitz   |  Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 6:35 am

    My wife Marsha and I were in Honolulu December, 2009. We had the pleasure of staying in the same hotel where Wally lives. He invited us to his store on the beach & we got to take pictures with him and hear him read to a group of children and, of course, eat some delicious cookies. He was super nice & we would like to go back to Hawaii and see him again.

  11. Jim   |  Thursday, 28 March 2013 at 7:24 pm

    Wally, I heard you on the Jay Thomas show the other day. Thanks for your inspiring words and your input! I loved your cookies until the big boys took over. I’m glad you are back in the cookie business and I will order some as soon as I get the list from my relatives. Thanks again Wally and I hope your future is bright. Jim

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