From the country music capital of the world... this is MUSIC CITY USA!

Welcome to the official website of MUSIC CITY USA, a weekly classic country radio show out of Nashville, Tennessee. On this blog you will find a wealth of information related to the radio show and to classic country music.

MUSIC CITY USA airs every Tuesday night from 8.00 to 10.00pm (Central Time) over WRVU Nashville 91.1 FM. You can also listen in online at

All your comments, questions, and requests are most welcome. There are three main ways to get in contact with the show:

(1) Post your comments on this website.
(2) Write an e-mail to
(3) Send a letter to Cowboy Anton & Cowgirl Erin:

WRVU Nashville
Attn: Cowboy Anton & Cowgirl Erin. Music City USA
P.O. Box 9100, Station B
Nashville, TN 37235 U.S.A.

Come on in, sit right down, make yourself at home... and enjoy some great classic country music!

Cowboy Anton & Cowgirl Erin.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


A couple of weeks ago, we dug deep into the history of country music and played "The Butcher's Boy," an old-time ballad recorded in the late-1920s by Buell Kazee. After the show, one of our listeners sent us a message inquiring about Kazee, and that prompted us to do some research and write this little article about the Kentucky-born clawhammer banjo picker.

"The Butcher's Boy" is one of the many ballads of Anglo-Celtic origin about unrequited love with a tragic ending that became a part of American folklore. It tells the story of a woman who is scorned by the man she loves and winds up hanging herself in her room. The events in the story are mostly told from the woman's perspective, including the powerful last stanza, which is actually the text of the note that she had written before committing suicide and that her father finds hidden in her bosom:

"Go dig my grave
Both wide and deep,
Place a marble stone
At my head and feet.
And over my coffin
Place a snow-white dove,
To tell the world
That I died for love."

Born in 1900 in Burton Fork, Kentucky, Buell Kazee recorded "The Butcher's Boy" for Brunswick in January 1928. Growing up in an environment in which music had always played an important part, Kazee had taken up the banjo when he was five. As a teenager, he decided that he wanted to become a minister, subsequently attending Georgetown College to prepare for the ministry. His college years opened his eyes to the literary value of the old traditional ballads that he had grown up hearing in his rural community, and this sparked his interest in collecting and preserving folk songs. While at college, Kazee also received a formal musical education, which undoubtedly accounts for the rather polished singing style and the spotless diction found in his records. "The Butcher's Boy" is a good example of this: Kazee delivers the very dramatic lyric in a very smooth manner, almost as though he were trying to make sure that every listener understands and relates to the story. His singing style is consciously smooth, and in this it departs from that of other banjo songsters of the period, such as Dock Boggs, whose voice sounds decidedly untrained.

In the late 1920s, when Brunswick called Kazee for an audition, though, it seems that he misunderstood what the label was looking for: for most of the audition, Kazee drew from his extensive repertoire of sentimental and parlor songs, which he sang beautifully, but this did not impress the record executives as much as his folk ballads, sung in a deliberately more rural style. Although Kazee cut quite a few sentimental pop ditties, his most successful recordings were traditional tunes such as "Lady Gay," "The Wagoner's Lad," and "The Butcher's Boy." On these, he accompanied himself on banjo, proving to be one of the finest clawhammer pickers in country music history. To Kazee's astonishment, Brunswick producers advised him to concentrate on the folk side of his repertoire, making sure that his performances sounded country enough: "I had to make a record seven or eight times to get it bad enough to sell. They said, 'If you want to sound country, you sing with a tight throat'" (1). As we can see, the debate over how country music should and should not sound was already current in the early years of the commercial era.

Although his records were selling well, the Depression put an end to Kazee's career as a recording artist, causing him to devote himself to his duties as a clergyman. Kazee would not record again until the late 1950s, when the folk revival stirred new interest in old-time music, offering him a chance for a comeback of sorts. A couple of his 1920s platters were included in Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music, and he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival, even making some new recordings for Folkways. Unfortunately, Kazee's records remain largely unreleased on CD, one of the reasons for his relative obscurity nowadays. Despite the fact that he waxed about sixty sides in the 1920s, only a few of them have resurfaced in various artists compilations, and of course, their quality and historical significance call for a thorough reissue. The only CD by Kazee currently available is the aforementioned Folkways album Buell Kazee Sings and Plays, which contains an informal session cut at Kazee's home in the late 1950s, during which he performed some of his best-known traditional ballads and also commented on their history and importance.

Kazee died in 1976, leaving behind a handful of great recordings, several books on religious themes, and even an unfinished autobiography. Until some label finally decides to undertake the reissue of his classic records from the 1920s, the general public will be spared an essential part of the delightful artistry of a unique man.

Cowboy Anton & Cowgirl Erin.

(1) Barry McCloud (ed.). Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers. New York: Berkley, 1995: 434.