The kazoo is played professionally in jug bands and comedy music, and by amateurs everywhere. It is one of the few acoustic instruments to be developed in the United States and one of the easiest melodic instruments to play well, requiring only the ability to vocalize in tune. In North East England and South Wales, kazoos play an important role in so-called juvenile jazz bands (really children's marching bands).
In the Original Dixieland Jass Band 1921 recording of "Crazy Blues", what the casual listener might mistake for a trombone solo is actually a kazoo solo by drummer Tony Sbarbaro. The Mound City Blue Blowers had a number of hit kazoo records in the early 1920s. The Mound City Blue Blowers featured Dick Slevin on metal kazoo and Red McKenzie on comb-and-tissue-paper kazoo. The vocaphone, a kind of kazoo with a trombone-like tone, was occasionally featured in Paul Whiteman's Orchestra. Trombonist-vocalist Jack Fulton played it on Whiteman's recording of "Vilia" (1931) and Frankie Trumbauer's "Medley of Isham Jones Dance Hits" (1932). The vocal group The Mills Brothers originally started in vaudeville as a kazoo quartet, playing four-part harmony on kazoo with one brother accompanying them on guitar.
The kazoo is not often found in European classical music, a rare exception being David Bedford's With 100 Kazoos, a piece which emphasizes the simplicity of the instrument - rather than being played by trained musicians, kazoos are handed out to members of the audience, who accompany a professional instrumental ensemble.
The kazoo is called for in Frank Loesser's score for the 1961 Broadway musical comedy How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. It appears as part of the instrumental accompaniment played by the orchestra: several instruments provide the sound effect of electric razors being used in the executive washroom, during a dance reprise of the ballad "I Believe in You".
The kazoo was used in the 1990 Koch International and 2007 Naxos Records recordings of American classical composer Charles Ives' "Yale-Princeton Football Game", where the kazoo chorus represents the football crowd's cheering. The brief passages have the kazoo chorus sliding up and down the scale as the cheering rises and falls.
One of the best known kazooists in recent times might be Barbara Stewart. She was a classically trained singer who has written a book on the kazoo , formed the "quartet" Kazoophony, and performed at Carnegie Hall. She recently appeared on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
Short performances of kazoo music is included on many modern recordings, usually for comic effect. For example, in Frank Zappa's first album, Freak Out!, he used the kazoo for adding such comic feel in some songs (including one of his best known, Hungry Freaks, Daddy).
On Saturday, November 17, 2007, spectators at the Bob Jones University Turkey Bowl broke the Guinness world record for the world's largest kazoo ensemble with an unofficial 3,800, members, all buzzing to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" for over five minutes.
On April 3, 2008, the live tour of the Radio 4 show I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue attempted to break the record with 3550 people in attendance at the Hammersmith Apollo, London, UK Confirmation from Guinness World Records is pending.
On July 2nd, 2008, an Evangelical Free Church of America Youth Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah broke the old Guinness World Record of 3,800 people with 5,300 buzzing to the song of Amazing Grace for 5 minutes.