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Buell Kazee

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Buell Kazee (August 29, 1900 - August 31, 1976) was an American country and folk singer. He is considered one of the most successful folk musicians of the 1920s and experienced a career comeback during the American folk music revival of the 1960s, due in part to his inclusion on the Anthology of American Folk Music.

Born at the foot of Burton Fork, a mountain in Magoffin County,Kentucky, Kazee was already known for playing banjo at church by the age of five . After graduating high school, he studied English, Greek and Latin at Georgetown College.

In 1927, Kazee traveled to New York City, and eventually signed with Brunswick Records. His first record was “Roll On John” backed with “John Hardy”. Over the next two years, backed by an assortment of New York musicians, he recorded 51 songs, including such hits as “Gray Lady,” “The Sporting Bachelors,” and “The Little Orphan Child.” His greatest success was “On Top Of Old Smoky”, which has been covered over 15,000 times.

He married in the early 1930s, and moved to the Vocalion label, but as the Depression worsened, Kazee recorded less and less, and eventually left the music business and worked for the next 22 years as a pastor.

After the Depression, Kazee performed only rarely and devoted himself entirely to the ministry, the profession he had wanted to pursue since his teens. During the 1960s folk music boom, Kazee enjoyed a comeback and began to perform again. He made joint appearances with other former folk stars like Dock Boggs and Clarence Ashley and Doc Watson at the Newport Folk Festival. He also wrote and published three books.

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