Accession Number: 54
Buell Kazee Collection, 1946-1979
Bulk Dates, 1974-1977
1.6 Linear Feet (4 mss Boxes)
Overview & Series Description
Series I - Biographical
Series II - Reel-to-reel Sound Recordings
Series III - Cassette Sound Recordings
Series IV - Cassette Sound Recordings
Access and Use
Acquisition Information: The material in this
collection was gathered in the latter 1970s by Loyal Jones, then
Director of the Berea College Appalachian Center.
Copyright: Mark Wilson retains copyright to audio tapes
AC-OR-004-001 through AC-OR-004-006, AC-OR-004-015 and AC-OR-004-028;
John Cohen retains copyright interest in audio tapes AC-OR-004-014
and AC-OR-004-019. Other tapes may be copied for non-commercial
purposes by agreement with the Special Collections staff.
Preferred Citation: Buell Kazee Collection, Berea College
Special Collections & Archives, Berea, Ky.
Overview of the Collection
These are correspondence, publications, interviews, photographs, and sound recordings
that document the career, repertoire, musical talents, religious views, and preaching
style of Buell Hilton Kazee (1900-1976), Kentucky folksinger, banjo player, and
Southern Baptist minister.
Related Berea College Archives
Additional recordings in the Sound Archive Collections include
performances from the 1974 Celebration of Traditional Music and
a 1972 interview in the Wilson
Kazee was born August 29, 1900, in the quite rural Burton Fork
area of Magoffin County, Kentucky. Baptist Christianity, home
made music, and classical commercial recordings were important
in Kazee’s upbringing. He was singing and playing banjo
by age 5 and was ordained to preach at age 17.
After finishing high school at Magoffin Baptist Institute, he
went on to Georgetown College, in Georgetown, Kentucky, to major
in English, Greek, and Latin, and study voice. There he came to
a stronger appreciation of his native culture - songs, tales, words,
and expressions - as it became clear via literature classes how
closely it was related to the life and language he was studying.
After college, Kazee’s distinctive banjo style led to a
contract with the Brunswick Recording Company. Payment for the
52 sides issued between 1927 and 1929 helped to settle college
debts, but any hopes of a recording career were dashed by the Great
Depression. Although he continued his folk music involvement he
viewed it as mostly a hobby in contrast to his commitment to pastoral
ministry which led to his serving Baptist churches in central and
eastern Kentucky until his retirement in 1969.
Despite his short-lived commercial recording activity, folk music
historians hold Kazee to be important as a conduit for the passing
on of eastern Kentucky traditional banjo styles, ballads, and songs.
The folk revival of the 1960s led to his discovery by another generation
via festival performances at Newport, the Smithsonian, and the
University of Chicago. Later recordings include LPs issued by Folkways
in 1958 and June Appal in 1978.
4 Manuscript Boxes
This series consists mostly of published writings by and about
Buell Kazee. Other materials include a list of his commercial recordings,
interview notes and transcripts, photographs, material relating
to the production of the June Appal tribute LP, and a contents
list for noncommercial recordings in this collection.
||Reel-to-reel Sound Recordings
This series consists of audio recordings of Buell Kazee performances
and interviews dating mostly from the late 1960s through the 1970s.
Performances include formal concerts in Seattle, Berea, and Renfro
Valley as well as less formal occasions. Interviews conducted by
Loyal Jones, John Cohen, and Karen Collins give much detail regarding
Kazee's views on life, career, music, and religion. They are particularly
rich in details of his repertoire, banjo tunings, and playing style.
Other material includes performances recorded for inclusion on
the June Appal tribute LP, “Buell Kazee” JA 009 (Berea
Mountain Phono 4297) and taped copies of several of Kazee’s
early commercial recordings.
This series consists mostly of recordings of sermons preached
by Buell Kazee. Other material includes Kazee’s funeral service,
conducted by Rev. Bert Calico, and an interview by Loyal Jones
dealing mostly with the tension between popular music and religion
that Kazee experienced growing up in Magoffin County.
This series consists of an extended interview with Buell Kazee’s
son, Rev. Philip Kazee, recorded by Loyal Jones and Stephen Green
at Oneida, Tennessee, December 1, 1992. Rev. Kazee also sings songs
and plays banjo in the style of his father. (Transcript in SAA
54 Box 1)
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