Cisco Houston Web Site


Archive of Folk Music

FM-205 (mono)
FS-205 "electronically stereotized"

Release date unstated but most likely late 1960's

To see the track listing, and reviews, see: Here.

Text on LP jacket:

Gilbert "Cisco" Houston was born in 1918 in Wilmington, Delaware. A year later his family moved to Eagle Rock, California, where Cisco attended school, though he never did graduate. He met Woody Guthrie in 1938 and the, along with actor Will Geer, toured the migrant camps up and down the state of California. Sometimes augmented by Burl Ives and other actors and singers, Cisco and his friends put on shows for the Spanish Refugee Relief.

In the early part of 1940, Cisco and Woody started singing together -- at union halls, picket lines, political rallies, and night clubs. Moe Asch, of Folkway records, asked Cisco, Woody, and Sonny Terry to record for him. Of that historic session Woody wrote, he "...cranked up his machinery and told us to fire away with everything we had. We yelled and whooped and beat and pounded...We tried hilltop and sunny mountain harmonies and wilder yells and whoops of the dead sea deserts and all the swampy and buggy mud bottom sounds that we could make. We sung to the mossy trees and to the standing moon...."

Cisco was a man who identified himself completely with the common folk. He sang their songs and gave willingly of his talents to their causes. The traveled the length and breadth of this land, and through his recordings and concerts became known to folk singers and folk son lovers. In December, 1959, Cisco headed a group of American folksingers on a tour of India under the sponsorship of the State Department. In the summer of 1960 he sang at the Newport Folk Festival.

On August 9, 1960, Cisco found out that he had cancer and would soon die. He said, "If you know my situation, which is a matter of weeks, or months at the outside, before the wheel runs off...Well, nobody likes to run out of time. But it's not nearly the tragedy of Hiroshima or the millions of people blown to hell in war, that could have been avoided. These are real tragedies."

Cisco Houston died April 27, 1961, in San Bernardino, California.

A Statement of Purpose

With the current renaissance of folk music there has come a proliferation of so-called "folk" recordings. By its very definition, folk music cannot be "manufactured." Most of these efforts are rather slick and facile popularizations of either traditional tunes of "composed" folk tunes. Though pleasant, they are not folk music.

Authentic performances of indigenous and unselfconscious music of the people by the "minstrels" of the people seldom have enjoyed the benefits of big-city recording studios and techniques. However, some of these were recorded, albeit under rather difficult conditions and on not so high fi 78 r.p.m. discs during the thirties and forties. Most of them have been out of print for years and exist only as well worn 78s in the collections of a few buffs.

It is the avowed purpose of the Archive of Folk Music to seek out original recordings and to selectively and carefully make them available to the public as relatively high quality L.P.'s at reasonable prices.

The illustrious names represented in this line have long been known and revered by dedicated folk buffs. Now for the first time these historic recordings may be enjoyed by the modern generation, most of whom were not even born when these historic slices of folklore and heritage were performed.

In order to transcribe these oft-times worn, poor quality 78 r.p.m. discs our engineers spend literally hundred of hours tediously splicing, editing, and adjusting. A microscope has to be used just to select the proper stylus for playback. As many as 500 splices may be made in one recording to eliminate the "pops" and distortions without impairing the performances. In any case -- the performance comes first and you will find yourself ignoring the distortions as you become enthralled with the sincerity and soul of the artists.

The Archive of Folk Music is proud to bring these recordings to you. If your reactions are favorable, we can continue the "good fight" and bring you more great performances -- Good listening!

We welcome any suggestions, contributions, or questions. You send it, we'll consider using it. Help us spread the word. And the music. And thanks for visiting.