Hutchins Library
Special Collections & Archives
Guide to the Buell Kazee Collection

Accession Number: 54
Buell Kazee Collection, 1946-1979
Bulk Dates, 1974-1977
1.6 Linear Feet (4 mss Boxes)
Online Catalog Record (BANC)

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 Reeves Collection.


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 influences 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.

Series Description
4 Manuscript Boxes

Series I Biographical Box 1

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.

Series II   Reel-to-reel Sound Recordings Boxes 2-3

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.

Series III     Cassette Sound Recordings    Box 4

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.

Series IV   Cassette Sound Recordings Box 4

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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