Members of the Long Lake Ladies Kazoo Band entertain for the public during the 2011 Memorial Day festivities in Long Lake.
Long Lake is the heart of the Adirondacks. Marie Graham is the heart and soul of its iconic Ladies Kazoo Band.
For more than 40 years, the dedicated and stalwart Marie Graham has almost single-handedly taken her band from Rt. 28 in Long Lake to New York City’s Halloween Parade, to the Mummer’s Parade in Philly, to the Desert Storm parade in Washington, D.C. and to many other major venues.
I first saw the band practicing in back of the Central School in Long Lake and thought “Oh, what fun.”
I then asked Marie if I could join, although I was only a summer resident. She said, “Welcome. You are now an official member of the Long Lake Kazoo Band.”
A week later, I was doing dock-to-dock serenades on Raquette Lake with Randy, the school’s band director, as the leader. It was then that I learned that the band began when the school had to make a choice about having an athletic team or a band. There were not enough students in the school for both. The students decided on a team and the parents decided to form their own kazoo band to support the students.
No one wants to admit to the choice of red overalls for the band uniform. There is nothing worse than undoing this uniform when there is a need for a lavatory break when on tour. Everyone does, however, like the white hats with two Long Lake black bears on the side. For winter, the satin white jackets are also a hit.
Throughout a multitude of transitions, Marie has never missed a step. She continually found us new leaders. We even had the TV Romper Room lady for a while. As the group got older, she also got us pick up trucks to take us up the hills. When guests came for a weekend, they were invited to join our group as marchers, drivers, or banner carriers. Marie always found enough uniforms for everyone.
Finding a drummer for the group was probably the biggest problem of all, and sometimes we had to turn to men for help in this regard. Often the men could carry the heavy drum but were not be able to keep a beat. The women on the other hand, could keep the beat but had trouble carrying the drum. Oh, for the days of Margaret Sauerhoff of Whispering Woods or Donna Kolwaite of Utica.
The Long Lake Kazoo Band has played for funerals, birthdays, the Christmas Parade in Glen Falls, the fall festival in North Creek, many lumberjack festivals and all sorts of local summer parades. No matter where they play, they are always greeted with big smiles and waves and pointed cameras. You would always hear people say, “Oh, look here comes the Long Lake Kazoo Band.”
The band may not be the most proficient band, the one with the best songs or the one that wins awards. It is the band that is the most ”down home” with older locals who have pride in the area in which they live. It is also the band that can laugh at itself and talk about years of friendships and good times.
Our hats are off to Marie Graham for her outstanding work with the band. She is the “glue” that has kept the band together. She takes care of finances, costuming, attendance, bookings, publicity, transportation, and social get togethers. Marie takes care of everything. She is the mother hen that keeps everyone happy and makes parading possible.
Since having some health problems, Marie is no longer able to march in the parades. She does, however, ride in the banner car to show to that no one or nothing is going to get her down. Her spirit is remarkable and one that is admired by all those who know her.
Many people like to volunteer to help others, but four decades of volunteering for one organization is something for the Guinness Book of Records. Thank you, Marie for bringing joy to those who stand along the parade route and wave and smile. Thank you Marie for bringing together so many marchers from so many places and each one with their own kazoo band story to tell.