National Kazoo Day Is Jan. 28; Who's Getting Buzzed? (VIDEO)
If you sense a buzz in the air today, it may not be your imagination, it may actually be someone playing the kazoo.
That's because Jan. 28 is celebrated as National Kazoo Day, a day when, according to organizers, Americans are supposed to take time to recognize the kazoo, that musical instrument that takes only a minute to master for a lifetime to annoy.
But while the kazoo can be irritating when played by a hyperactive 5-year-old, it is a legitimate musical instrument, according to Scott Paulson, who uses kazoos to help provide soundtracks at silent movie screenings.
"It can be annoying, but it can be a delightful instrument," Paulson told HuffPost Weird News. "It's known mostly as a child's toy, but it has a history of being a ritual instrument in Africa."
Paulson says those early kazoos were used in rituals where the natives would disguise their voices using an animal horn and the membrane from spider eggs.
"It's basically a mask of the voice," he said.
Legend has it that the modern kazoo was invented in 1850 by former slave Alabama Vest of Macon, Ga., who devised the plans and than had it built by clockmaker Thaddeus von Clegg, a German immigrant. It was introduced two years later at the 1852 Georgia State Fair, but the familiar sub shape wasn't created until 1902.
In the late-19th and early-20th centuries, the kazoo was a popular accompanying instrument in jug bands, minstrel shows and was even featured on early jazz records, according to Paulson.
"Many early recordings featured kazoos because they recorded well on the early sound equipment," he said. "Sometimes they sound like a trombone."
Classical musicians like Richard Wagner, Leonard Bernstein and Charles Ives actually wrote pieces using the kazoo, and the instrument was also utilized by rockers like Frank Zappa, the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix, who used the 'zoo for his classic "Crosstown Traffic."
Still, the instrument gets it's share of subtle criticism in the form of jokes, prompting Rick Hubbard to promote National Kazoo Day since the early '80s. He has also been trying to get the idea of declaring it "America's official musical instrument" to resonate with Congress.
"The kazoo's musicality is only limited by the player's imagination," Hubbard told AOL News.
Hubbard, who claims he can coax 40 separate sounds from his instrument, performs 250 kazoo concerts each year.
To be fair, National Kazoo Day is a way to toot his own horn since he is also chief executive officer of Kazoobie Inc., a Beaufort, S.C., company that sells a million kazoos annually.
The factory is also the site of the National Kazoo Museum, which features all sorts of classic kazoos, including one used in the television program "The Partridge Family," electric kazoos and kazoos that are over 100 years old, as well as an old press used to make kazoo parts.
The fact that no training is needed is one factor in the kazoo's favor, but Kazoobie spokeswoman Teresa Howey says some musicians such as classically trained singer Barbara Stewart, who died in 2011, have demonstrated what the instrument is really capable of doing.
"Anyone can play the kazoo, but a good singer can breathe longer and hum the pitches better," Howey said.
Although it's possible to get a bag of a dozen kazoos at a dollar store, some top-of-the-line kazoos that are made with metal cost as much as $165.
However, Paulson says fixing them is usually simple -- and cheap.
"If the resonator isn't working, you can use wax paper, onion paper, or, in a pinch, a toilet seat cover works just as well," Paulson said.