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Buell Kazee Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: BCA 0054 SAA 054

Scope and Contents

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.

Listen to Interview and Performance Recordings


  • Created: 1946-1979

Conditions Governing Access

Records can be accessed through the Reading Room, Berea College Special Collections and Archives, Hutchins Library, Berea College.

Conditions Governing Use

There are no known restrictions other than federal copyright regulations. Please cite information.


1.60 Linear Feet

Language of Materials



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 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 nonetheless 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.

Arrangement Note

The collection is arranged as follows:

Series 1: Printed Matter

Series 2: Recordings

Other Descriptive Information

BCA 0054 SAA 054

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Harry Rice, Sound Archivist.  The finding aid was updated in December of 2015 to include listening/reference copies of recordings. Links to recordings added 2018.

Archon Finding Aid Title
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Berea College Special Collections and Archives Repository

Hutchins Library
100 Campus Drive
Berea Kentucky 40404 US