My Friend Cisco Houston
(This text was largely taken from Cowboy Songs album notes where they spelled this friend's name as Huston.)
Cisco Houston liked folk songs and ballads the first he ever heard them. He had a few odd records while he was young and in his prime, when he was taking active parts in learning how to be an actor at the Pasadena Playhouse. He left that kind of life because he wanted things to hit him just a little bit harder. He wanted life to sort of knock some tougher and manlier lessons into his head. He took to the sea lanes and to the sea rails at an early age. He learned how to imitate every tongue and dialect of speech in every port and town the whole wide world around.
Cisco is a champion at a lot of things. Champ swimmer. Champ runner. Champion actor. Champion organizer of men into trade unions. Cisco likes hard-hitting songs and hard-hitting people. He likes to roam and ramble, to walk, think, drink and to talk with oil field roughnecks, timber slippers, mine crawlers, white collar city workers, clerks, folks on the ships, on trains, on fast-wheeling river barges. He likes to meet and sing with people out in the bad kinds of weathers, fighting for their rights to organize and to deal with the boss in a bunch.
He plays a big high-sounding guitar and is getting just about as good as they need to come. He's a man that likes most of all to meet new colors of people, newer colors of fields, hills, valleys and new-looking mountains under every color of sky. A man that rode the merchant boats all during World War II, and carried picket signs saying not to send your scrap iron and oil to Japan six or seven years back, fighting the goons and thugs out along the West Coast country of Frisco, Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles. He always takes the hard road, never the easy one, because the easy road isn't much to build up world union men along.
He sung with me in three trips and through three invasions in the merchant marine ships. We got torpedoed two times out of our three trips. I met a Negro boy who told me he had been torpedoed three times in one day, up in the icy cold waters along our North Sea coasts. So I stopped my bragging about my two torpedoes alongside of Cisco Houston, who lost his brother, Slim, off the coast of Maine during the early days of the last world war, No. 2. Cisco has been torpedoed enough times to make him one of the best. He's run into three tin fish, to be right exact about it.
In my own mind, I see Cisco Houston as one of our manliest and best of our living crop of ballad and folksong singers. He is showman enough to make the grade and to hold any audience, anywhere, at any time. I like Cisco as a man. I like him as a person, and as a fun-having, warm-hearted and likeable human being.
We are lucky, I think, to have a man like Cisco Houston -- singing fighting and militant songs of social protest, to the honor and dignity of the working man and woman everywhere across the humps and the falls of our country. This is a big job. It is for big people with big faith in the humanly race everywhere.
I've heard Cisco sing with Arabs, Mexicans, the Moors, Sicilians, Irish, Scottish, Italians, Welsh, the Cubans, Puerto Ricans, Russians, Canadians, the whites, the blacks, the browns, the tones and colors all in between. I say that when you hear Cisco's voice you are going to like him the same way that my family likes him. The same way he likes you. Cisco is too young yet for me to putrefy about, but I prophecy that you'll be hearing him in the close and near-future days.
I am positive that Cisco's choice of songs and ballads will always be from the deepest deeps of the heartblood that flows in such great pride and dignity from the lips and tongues of workers everywhere around this world today, working on, and working towards, their one big union of the whole humanly race.