Kazoo band hums the hits

January 26, 1999

Kazoo BandBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

WILLIAMSPORT - Kazoo player Ada Rider was born five years before the instrument went into production in 1914.

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Rider is the only original member remaining in the Homewood Retirement Center's "Joyful Noise Kazoo Band," which gave its annual concert Monday for National Kazoo Day, which is Thursday.

"We call ourselves the oldest kazoo band in the world. Nobody's ever contested it," said the Rev. Willard Rahn, who founded the group shortly after he came to Homewood as its chaplain 11 years ago.


The group practices every Monday. They usually start with "Old Gray Mare," which prompts discussion about "how she used to be."

"Some of us can't walk like we used to. Some of us can't read like we used to. Some of us are more forgetful than we used to be," Rahn said.

For the 24 band members, many of whom have Alzheimer's disease, the band gives them something to look forward to.

"There's only one requirement. You have to know how to breathe," Rahn said.

Rider plays a kazoo that's shaped like a trombone. She's had it from the start and says she needs a new one because the waxed paper inside is worn.

"I can't get any tune out of it," she says. "I have fun. We have a lot of fun."

Most of the residents play brightly colored plastic kazoos in red, green and yellow.

Rahn has three kazoos. His son gave him one that's gold-plated and band member Louise Lubarski gave him one that whistles on the uptake.

"It's just a fun thing, for Pete's sake. Toot your horn with the rest of the old people," kazoo player Mary Beard said with a smile.

Beard, 83, a retired first-grade teacher, plays in the band with her former principal at Clear Spring Elementary.

Nora Snyder, 95, remembers playing piano for the students occasionally. She also directed the choir for the Clear Spring Lion's Club's annual minstrel show.

Now, she enjoys the kazoo band.

"We can all get together. We have a pretty good group," Snyder said.

Monday's theme was "A Kazoo Walk."

Each song was a stop along the walk, with Rahn narrating in between.

"Old McDonald's Farm," "There's a Church in the Valley," and "Row Row Row Your Boat" were a few of their tunes.

Before they played "I've Been Working on the Railroad," Rahn asked the group how many people had relatives who worked on the railroad. More than half raised their hands.

"It gives you something to do. Takes your mind off yourself," said Margaret Greene, 76.

The kazoo was invented by an American named Alabama Vest in the 1840s, according to the Original American Kazoo Company of Eden, N.Y.

Michael McIntyre and Harry Richardson began making metal kazoos for the Eden, N.Y.-company in 1914.

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