Comic bands – kazoo & zobo

Professor Mugger-Swaggers Band, Batley

Professor Mugger-Swaggers Band, Batley

I was recently sent a picture of Professor Mugger-Swaggers Band from Batley. Though not a true brass band, it was interesting as an example of the “comic” bands which were active in the 1890s and 1900s, formed to entertain the masses and raise money for charity.


These bands were sometimes created ad hoc for galas and festivals, and occasionally had a more long-term existence. Usually they consisted of kazoo-like instruments and drums, interspersed with home-made and “real” brass or woodwind instruments.

Zobo instruments, based on kazoo principles, were invented and developed in the USA in the early 1890s and spread across to the UK soon thereafter. For more information about the history of Zobo instruments, see:


Morley Parrock Nook Anthem Band

Morley Parrock Nook Anthem Band

In the West Riding of Yorkshire these bands were known as Tommy Talker bands and had interesting names such as Nanny Goat Lancers, Underground Artillery Jazz Band, Royal Tramps, King Tut’s Lancers, Dr Hall’s Rough and Ready Band, Paddock Silver Piggin Band, Keighley Wiffum Waffum Wuffum Band and Morley Parrock Nook Anthem Band.

The latter band was formed in 1900, their leader being Billy Commons, who dressed as a dancing donkey. These bands were active on and off until the 1930s. Derek Hudson has produced a tribute to these bands at

Metlakatla girls' Zobo Band, Alaska

Metlakatla girls’ Zobo Band, Alaska


C. Bruno & Son p 328

Catalogue of Zobo instruments


Tommy Troll Band


Hazeldene Prize Jazz Band


A comic band at Fleetwood, 1911

Chelmsford Poor Law Institution House Officers Jazz Band, 1920

Chelmsford Poor Law Institution House Officers Jazz Band, 1920

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