This blog is dedicated to the sublime instruments called nose flutes and which produce the most divine sound ever. We have chosen to discard all the native models from S. Pacific and Asia, for they need fingering to be played. We'll concentrate on "buccal cavity driven" nose flutes : the well patented and trademarked metal or plastic ones, plus, by a condemnable indulgence, some wooden craft or home-made productions.

Jun 21, 2016

Jean Shepherd and the Nose Flute - Part I

On Wikipedia, on Jean Shepherd's page, it is written:

« On some of his broadcasts he played parts of recordings of such novelty songs as "The Bear Missed the Train" (a parody of the Yiddish ballad "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen") and "The Sheik of Araby". Sometimes Shepherd would accompany the recordings by playing the Jew's harp, nose flute, or kazoo, and occasionally even by thumping his knuckles on his head. »

I already posted about the famous radio storyteller Jean Shepherd (see here), but I wanted to go further. I'm not going to deal with his life and career (better check the numerous pages about him), but to focus, as you can imagine, on the nose flute side of his work. Many of his programs were available on the Net, but I was a bit reluctant before the mountain to be climbed...

But we did it, I sacrificed myself for you! I downloaded the 1,236 files I found (from,, and Just take a look at Year 1972 on, and you will understand what it could be to check all programs available from 1959 to 1977. I wrote 'available', because has done a census of 3,076 of them...

Most of the files I downloaded are 45' long (kind of 900 hours of broadcasting), and I couldn't spend such time in listening all of them. So I did the craziest job possible (I mean a job that really turns you mad, enters your dreams at night, etc.): I 'scanned' the 1,236 files. That is, I listened to a very short sound signal every 20 sec. It took me about 20 hours staying concentrated in order to detect any nose flute playing while clicking like a woodpecker (I calculated: some 120,000 clicks and some headaches:). Crazy work, but the crop is there!

For sure I have probably missed some short nose flute appearances... Yes. Is it a problem ? No. In the table I made, the figures are probably not exact, but I think they are correct relatively to each other: they draw a global picture. So, was Jean Shepherd a 'Jew's harp, nose flute, and kazoo' player ?

As you can see, Jean Shepherd began playing the nose flute in the 1959 shows, and that's only in 1964 and 1965 that the kazoo and jew's harp appeared. But in the whole picture, the kazoo was played in more broacasts (170) than the Jew's harp (114), and much more than the nose flute (47)! So, 'Shep' was mostly a kazoo player!

Anyway, I was able to sort the 'nose flute files' in several categories:

1.- Solos (short melodies or gimmicks played on the nose flute alone)
2.- Plays along (solos or melodies played over a music record)
3.- Compositions (J.S. own compositions or improvisations)
4.- Experiments (application of miscellanous effects)
5.- Commercials (solos or 'musical comments' played over a commercial)
6.- Stories (storytelling involving a nose flute)

OK. Let's go! Time for Jean Shepherd!


1.- Solos

This is not the funniest category, but as you can hear, the last (1966) clip show the use of reverb. The first clip, from 1959, should really be the first one with nose flute, since Shep introduces it:






2.- Plays along

Playing along a record was an amusement that seems to have pleased a lot Jean Shepherd. Mostly Jazz (News Orleans, Jug bands, Ragtime...)…









…, this standard ('That's My Weakness Now') …


…, but also Marches (military fanfares)…



…, and even a classical theme ('Bahn frei by Eduard Strauss, the Shepherd show theme)


>> Access Part II


Related links :

- Jean Shepherd and the Nose Flute - Part I
- Jean Shepherd and the Nose Flute - Part II
- Jean Shepherd and the Nose Flute - Part III
- Jean Shepherd and the Nose Flute - Part IV



  1. More to explore;-): in the Netherlands we had a radioshow in the 1980s and 1990s, every Friday afternoon, called 'De Steen en Been Show', whose host Jack Spijkerman used to play the nose flute on a very regular basis.

    1. Hi Maikel! Please do you know if they are available somewhere?

  2. Yes they are!
    It's in the wonderful Sound & Vision Archives in Hilversum, great architecture by the way!

  3. Wikipedia says about the former readio host Jack Spijkerman: "Nose flute and harmonica:
    Especially in the early years (of the programme) Jack Spijkerman accompanied some records (he played on air) with a nose flute and a harmnica. In later years, these attributes disappeared."

    I tried to contact him in the late '90s or early '00s, didn't get a reply. Looked him in the eye a couple of years later, strolling along with his wife and kids in Amsterdam, but didn't feel like approaching him, as he is said to be rather grumpy in real life.

    1. Thank you! Ii will check all of that when i'll be back to France