LOOSELEAF LAUREATE: What's the buzz? Ummm, it's certainly not me

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By Terri Likens, Editor

My failure is abject — that realization came to me recently.

What I’m referring to is my last, best attempt to play a musical instrument.

Let’s go over my instrument resume:

• My grade-school attempts at the flutophone were awful.

• I couldn’t manage the simple chords on guitar.

• A long-ago boyfriend worked with me for months on the basics of the banjo before throwing in the towel.

I have always had an outstanding ear for music; that was never the issue. What I don’t have is technique.
Even so, I took comfort that I could always fall back on the one instrument on which technique is nearly unnecessary — the one instrument any healthy person can play.

Or so I thought. My friends, I’m here to tell you, it ain’t so.

I can’t play the kazoo.

Last June, I attended a concert of Scott Miller, a darned good singer and songwriter who largely got his start in Knoxville. Along with Miller’s latest CD, I picked up one of the colorful, personalized kazoos he sells and got him to autograph it.

Several of my friends did the same.

Once we left the concert venue and were sure the permanent marker Miller used to sign them with was dry, we decided to try out our purchases.

One began humming a lovely rendition of “Amazing Grace” into her kazoo. A second chimed in.

I was feeling the love and threw in my attempt at kazoo harmony.

The other two stopped playing, burst out in laughter and pointed at me.

“You can’t play kazoo!” they said.

“Yes, I can,” I maintained, my cheeks turning red.

I tried again. They howled again.

I turned the instrument around, figuring I must be playing the wrong end. More howling — this time louder. I gave up and decided I had purchased a faulty instrument, holding onto that belief until a recent visit from my brother Ken. Seeing the plastic instrument lying on a countertop, he picked it up and began to hum. It sounded good — at least for a kazoo.

And so I have shouldered the shame — I cannot play the kazoo.

But guess what? I am not alone. A quick Google search and a couple of YouTube videos later, and I realized kazoo-playing can be complicated.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.