Listen to Buell Kazee play “The Dying Soldier”
Oh brother Green, oh come to me,
For I am shot and bleeding,
Now I must die, no more to see,
My wife and my dear children.
The southern () has layed me low,
On this cold ground to suffer,
Stay brother stay and lay me away,
And write my wife a letter.
Tell her that I’m prepared to die,
And want to meet her in heaven,
Since I believed in Jesus Christ,
My sins are all forgiven.
My little ones, I love them well,
Oh could I once more see them,
That I might bid them a long farewell,
But we will meet in heaven.
Oh brother I am dying now,
Oh see I die so easy,
Oh surely death has lost it’s sting,
Because I love my Jesus.
Go tell my wife she must not grieve,
Oh kiss my dear little children,
For they will call for me in vain,
When I am gone to heaven.
Recorded on January 18, 1928 in New York City
Buell Kazee was a master of the high, “lonesome” singing style of the Appalachian balladeer. His banjo style was a unique variation on the traditional frailing style, and he played in as many as eleven different tunings. Because most of his life was taken up with preaching and his duties to his Baptist congregation, he had a limited time for music.
In 1926, W. S. Carter, the proprietor of Carter’s Phonograph Shop in Ashland, KY (who was also a representative of Brunswick-Balke-Collender Recording Company) heard Buell sing. As a result, Kazee the following year was asked to record for Brunswick in New York. The producers of the sessions asked Kazee if he could sing with more of a southern accent—he was a bit perturbed by this, having worked relentlessly to hone his voice to a point he considered worthy of recording.
Over the next two years, he recorded 52 songs backed by New York musicians. Many were religious, but others ranged from traditional to popular ballads, including “Lady Gay,” “The Sporting Bachelors,” and “The Orphan Girl.” His biggest hit was a version of “On Top of Old Smoky” called “Little Mohee,” which sold over 15,000 copies on 78 rpm recordings.
Buell Kazee’s career as a professional musician came to end in 1929, despite offers of tour support for county fairs across the country and membership in the radio cast of WLS’ National Barn Dance in Chicago. His priorities were spiritual, not musical. “I couldn’t go that way,” he said (he heard the call to preach at 17). “My life was cast in a different direction and there wasn’t any reason to consider it. I was going to preach all my life.”
Kazee was born on August 29, 1900, at the head of Burton Fork in Magoffin County in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.