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Entertainer's Love Of Kazoo Becomes Profitable Venture

Published: Jul 24, 2003

PORT RICHEY - Fans had long been humming along at Rick Hubbard's Kazoobie Kazoo Show when opportunity buzzed in two years ago.

A longtime manufacturer of the unlikely musical instrument put its company on the market. And Hubbard, the chief client, upped his investment in the plastic kazoo.

``I'm an entertainer, and my business revolves around playing music and giving everybody kazoos,'' Hubbard said during a telephone interview Wednesday from Hilton Head, S.C. ``I'm still my own biggest customer.''

Hubbard recently moved his company from Hilton Head to a 2,500-square-foot facility at 6520 Industrial Ave. He has two full-time employees, including a vice president and a producer. He plans to hire part- time assemblers or ``cappers,'' Sandi Snow, business development manager for the Pasco Economic Development Council, announced at a Wednesday board meeting.

Hubbard, whose tours have included stops at Disney World and Busch Gardens, said he chose to move to Pasco because of its proximity to Kazoobie's primary plastic supplier in Clearwater. Packaging and shipping also is more convenient, and taxes are lower.

Hubbard started entertaining in 1987 and early on coined the term ``Kazoobie'' for ``exceptional fun involving everyone.'' He took the name for his business after he bought the manufacturing plant.

Kazoobie Inc. since has cultivated clients ranging from Microsoft and Dell computers to the Boy Scouts of America, through a retail Web site, and word of mouth. The rock band Weezer and Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson recently ordered batches imprinted with their insignia and his autograph. And a prison warden uses kazoos for an impromptu band.

``I think the appeal for me is the appeal for anyone,'' Hubbard said. ``Anyone can play the kazoo, because all you have to do is hum.''

An Internet search showed the kazoo has African origins and arrived in the United States via a Georgia inventor. Kazoobie Inc. now is the only full-time American manufacturer of plastic kazoos, Hubbard said. A metal kazoo manufacturer, Brimms Co., bought American Kazoo Factory in Eden, N.Y., in the 1980s.

Kazoobie Inc. makes almost 500,000 kazoos per year. Hubbard said he gives away a fifth of those, but the promotions increase Internet sales.

The kazoos are made to order and come with the option of imprints, such as ``Thanks for coming to our wedding. Hum-m for a kiss.'' Another novelty is chocolate kazoos, although they are not playable.

Reporter Julia Ferrante can be reached at (813) 948-4220.