Thursday, October 16, 2008

Fenway Park's Very Own Kazoo Guy

Anyone who has ever visited Fenway Park has come away with lasting memories of sight, smell, and sound. These sensations become an indelible part of the experience for us, and each one is unique to the individual who owns the memory. Who doesn't remember the awe they felt the first time they walked up that ramp and gazed out on the glorious green expanse of the infield, the light towers turning night into day, the electricity of the crowd filing in to their seats? Regulars to Fenway hold on tight to their favorite recollections; the announcer blaring out "Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to Fenway Park", the vendors shouting as they weave through the aisles, the smell of steamed hot dogs, singing 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th inning stretch, and of course, listening to "Dirty Water" play after each Red Sox victory.

If you have been fortunate enough to sit near the right field bleachers, near section 43, hopefully you have been lucky enough to experience a unique character who makes each visit to the ball park just a little more special and interesting. This is not a staged actor sent out by Larry Lucchino. This is not a marketing gimmick. No, this is a regular Red Sox fan, just like you and me (well, almost). This is, Kazoo Guy!

The first time I saw Kazoo Guy was in the spring of 2004. The Red Sox had just scored a run, the crowd was on their feet cheering, and music was blaring from the speakers across Fenway Park. As the next batter began his walk out to the batter's box, the music ended and the crowd quieted and settled into their seats. Suddenly, off to our right, I heard a funny sound. I glanced over to see what it was. The sight came as a bit of a surprise.

Standing on his seat with his back to right field, was a man, looking about 50 years old, with greying hair and wearing a Red Sox shirt and hat. His hat was adorned with two actual red socks pinned to either side and hanging down to his shoulders, reminding me of a basset hound's ears. He had a kazoo that he was using to play a rally song and at each of three pauses in the song, the crowd around him followed his lead by pumping a fist into the air and yelling "HEY". After the third fist pump, he simply sat back down and went back to watching the game.

Kazoo Guy
(Photo Courtesy of Boston.Com)

My friends and I glanced at each other with smiles and shrugged our shoulders as if to say, "did you just see what I think I saw?". Later in the game the guy with the kazoo repeated his performance. We were already getting caught up in it and joined in the cheer this time. As the game went on, the pattern slowly became clear. Every time the Red Sox scored, this kazoo guy would lead us in a cheer. Everyone within ear shot loved it. This was immediately recorded in my memory as a favorite thing at Fenway Park. Over the next 5 years, we would see kazoo guy at nearly every game. In fact, as we would settle into our regular seats, it became a habit to glance over and confirm that Kazoo Guy was there.

Kazoo Guy became synonymous with Red Sox success. If the Red Sox were getting shut out, we might say to each other, "this is terrible, we haven't heard Kazoo Guy once all night". That's right, if the Sox don't score - no kazoo cheer. Rules are rules. But, who is this "Kazoo Guy"? What is his story? I had the pleasure of speaking with Kazoo Guy himself, and here's what I found out.

Kazoo Guy's real name is Bobby, and he just turned 53 this September. He grew up nearby, in South Boston, where he lives to this day. Like most of us, he grew up a big fan of the Red Sox and has been going to Fenway as often as possible since he was a kid. Bobby recalls how times were different years ago. In 1967, the challenge for kids was to try to sneak into Fenway Park and rush the gates when cops weren't looking. This might sound crazy today, but the technique got Bobby in to see game 7 of the 1967 World Series (among a few others). Yes, times were different back then. You were not allowed to bring your own cooler into the park, which is also true today, but there were ways around that then. In the seventies, Bobby recalls sneaking ropes into the park, then lowering the ropes down to the street from the bleacher seats where friends would be waiting to tie the ropes to coolers to be hauled up. Try that after 9/11!

Okay, Bobby is a true life-long Red Sox fan and the Red Sox are in his blood. But how did this whole kazoo thing start?

Let's start with the hat, which is simple enough. He invented the hat in the 90's as a sort of rally hat and would wear it primarily just to big games to show support for the hometown team. Once he added in the kazoo cheer, the hat became a permanent part of the show. For the kazoo cheer, we can thank Gary Glitter, and a little bit of fate.

Gary Glitter? That's right. The song that Bobby plays on the kazoo comes from Gary Glitter's classic song, "Rock & Roll, Part 2", sometimes referred to as "The Hey Song". (You can click the link to hear a clip, or better yet, you can hear the clip in the red Sox Songs widget on the right - don't worry - it's free and not a trick to get you to click on ads). Here's the story.

In the late 90's, Bobby had attended a parade, and at the parade, a float was tossing out kazoos. Bobby grabbed a couple, and stuck them in his jacket pocket. That was step one on the road to Kazoo Guy. The next aspect to the story, was that Gary Glitter was arrested and convicted of child pornography. Prior to this arrest, the "Hey Song" was a very popular rally cry played at sports arenas across the country, and a regular song at Fenway Park. But after the arrest, many venues, Fenway Park among them, ceased playing the song for understandable reasons. However, the fans missed the inspiring song that they had come to love.

Now, the picture should becoming more clear. One day, in the late 90's, Bobby is sitting in the bleachers, and the Red Sox score. Bobby is frustrated that they don't play "Rock & Roll Part 2" anymore, and notices the kazoo from the parade is still in his pocket. On a whim, he pulls out the kazoo, and while sitting in his seat, blares out his own rendition of the rally song, and continues to do so at big moments in the game. It turns out, the people around him like it! They encourage him to stand up on the chair and blare it out for everyone. He did, and Kazoo Guy was born.

In 2003, Bobby purchased 10th Man Plan tickets (like myself), and as a result, sits with the same people around him, and they've all come to love Kazoo Guy. Kids love him too, and he is often asked to pose for a photo or sign an autograph, which he always enjoys doing.

Kazoo Guy is now a permanent fixture for the regulars in section 43. A few years ago, a couple actually got married just prior to a game in section 43. Bobby was asked to play the wedding march for them on the kazoo. How perfect is that?

(Photo by Jere at A Red Sox Fan From Pinstripe Territory)

The Fenway Park ushers have come to accept him as part of the ball park as well. But, there was one time when a novice usher did not like the act, and started giving him a hard time. His posse was behind him and the section gave the usher a piece of their mind with a rousing boo. Luckily, before things got out of hand, the more experienced ushers pulled the new guy aside and straightened him out. Bobby has not been harassed by the ushers since.

It can be awkward when he sits away from his usual crowd though. You see, we all know what Kazoo Guy is all about. But, if he happens to sit in a different area, he's never quite sure what the new folks will make of him. Generally, he will feel out the crowd, and it usually does not take them long to catch on and join right in.

How much do we love Kazoo Guy? At a game this past September, Bobby got up on his seat to kick off another cheer following a Red Sox run. As the cheer was nearing the end, he saw a fan holding up something that said Kazoo on it. He thought to himself, "wow, now they're holding up a banner for me?". As the song ended, he saw that the person was Kelly, a section 43 regular, and the item she was holding up was not a banner. Kelly walked up to Bobby and presented him with a brand new white Red Sox home jersey. On the back is the number 43, representing their section, and above that, the word "Kazoo" is emblazoned where a player's last name would normally be.

That completes the journey. Bobby is now the un-official Kazoo Guy of Fenway Park. If you see Bobby, give him a wave, and let him know you appreciate what he has done to make Fenway Park an even better place to watch a game. Bobby wants to do one more thing for you too. Dennis Eckersley wore number 43 during the 8 years he played with the Red Sox. Bobby wants to convince the Eck to make a visit to section 43, and join in with the new #43, Kazoo Guy, in a Rock and Roll Part 2 cheer for the enjoyment of his Red Sox bleacher family. Eck, if you are listening, what do you say?

(Click on the photos to view them in larger size)


Jere said...

It's funny, I've also had a 1-game plan since '04, in section 43, but since I have different days, I always miss Kazoo guy. But I did get that pic on a game I went to that wasn't part of my plan, and always wondered what the hell he was doing. Thanks!

Rooster said...

Jere - Thanks! Thought you'd appreciate this being a Kazoo Guy fan yourself.

Thanks for the photo too.

Kazoo Guy (and I) have 10th Man Plan tickets on the Tuesday/Friday plan. I am in section 87 - right across the alley from Kazoo Guy.

Sotion.S said...

YoOO! That's my good frend Momoe's DAD!! He's that MAN!! HE's COMEDY and GOOD TIMES ALL THE WAY!! COME ON ECK!! DO IT!!

Rooster said...

Sotion, Gald you liked it. He's a great part of Fenway now!

I'm going to try to contact Eck, but it will probably have to be for next season, but we'll see.

Jere said...

Eck was right above section 43 for the ALCS! Kazoo guy should've called up to him.

Here's a pic I took of him up there. (For those who don't know, the two fans you see at bottom left are in the top right corner of the bleachers (sec 43).

My Two Cents said...

I have the pleasure of being in Section 43 and see Kazoo Guy on the same games. Tuesday/Fridays. He's wonderful. I even talked to him last year and he was so friendly. We love Bobby, Kazoo Guy