Red McKenzie (William McKenzie) (October 14, 1899, St. Louis, Missouri - February 7, 1948, New York City) was an American jazz musician. He was the best-known, and one of the only, comb players in jazz history.
McKenzie played the comb by placing paper (he claimed to favour strips cut from the New York Evening World) over the tines and blowing on it, which produced a sound similar to a kazoo. McKenzie also played a real kazoo, and occasionally sang. He was a co-founder, with Jack Bland, of the Mound City Blue Blowers, who released a number of titles between 1924 and 1925 and were, for a time, a sensation. At the same time, McKenzie also recorded solo as Red McKenzie & the Candy Kids. In 1928, he fronted a group called McKenzie and Condon's Chicagoans for a few sides on Okeh Records. He returned to the Mound City name again in 1929, 1931, and 1935-36.
Beginning in 1931 (no doubt due to the popularity of crooners such as Bing Crosby and Russ Columbo), he started recording as a singer, processing a very warm crooner style as a solo for Columbia and with Paul Whiteman in 1932. He sang again with the Spirits of Rhythm in 1934 and the Farley-Riley group in 1935. He made two swinging vocal records for Variety in 1937.
Between 1939 and 1943 McKenzie went into retirement, moving back to his birthplace of St. Louis and working in a brewery, but appeared with Eddie Condon between 1944 to 1947 as a vocalist. Known as heavy drinker, he died of liver cirrhosis in 1948.
- Eddie Condon, We Called It Music (London: Jazz Book Club, 1956), p. 181.
- Scott Yanow, "Red McKenzie" at Allmusic
- Red McKenzie at Redhotjazz.com (includes discography)
- Roger D. Kinkle, The Complete Encyclopedia of Popular Music and Jazz, 1900-1950 (Arlington House Publishers, 1974)