Cisco Houston Web Site


On The Ranch

RCA Victor, LY103

Written by Ray Abrahkin and Tom Glazer


Cisco Performances

  • The Cowboy
  • The Rope
  • Home on the Range (Cisco lead)
  • How Many Biscuits Can You Eat?
  • The Roundup
  • Camping Out Song (Cisco bass harmony)
  • The Rodeo
  • The Cowboy (2 Time) (Cisco lead)
  • Git Along Little Dogies
  • Chisholm Trail

Of Interest:

This is a children's record and tells the story of a boy joining a ranch. Cisco plays the part of the foreman and sings most, but not all, of the material. Bill Bender is the other singer.

Related Information

From: Folksingers and Folk Songs in America

Ray M. Lawless 1960/65

Gil "Cisco" Houston, actor and ballad singer, was born in Wilmington, Delaware, August 18, 1918. His father's people came from the Carolinas, and his mother's from Virginia. One of his grandmothers knew and sang many folksongs. Schooling through the grades and high school was done in Los Angeles, California, but he did not attend college.

Cisco Houston has knocked about the world a great deal in the past 20 years and, as he says, he has "swapped songs on crossroads, front steps, in general stores, with sailors aboard ships." During the war years he was with the Merchant Marine. His repertoire is a vast one and his singing experience extensive.

Cisco traveled and sang in many states with his good friend, Woody Guthrie, for whom he has a great admiration. He was also a personal friend of Huddie (Leadbelly) Ledbetter, "one of the mightiest singers of our time," says Houston. And he has known and worked with such other folk artists as Burl Ives and John Jacob Niles. The number of his concerts, or recitals, in some 30 or 40 states runs into the hundreds -- he has no idea how many. Town Hall, Madison Square Garden and café society in New York, as well as schools and churches across the land -- all have heard and enjoyed his singing and guitar strumming.

In the dozen years since World War II, Cisco has made folksong recordings under the Asch, Stinson, Folkways, Disc, and Coral labels. Three of his recent Folkways albums have had a highly favorable reviews: 900 Miles and Other Railroad Songs (FP 13), Cowboy Ballads (FP 22), and Hard Travelin' (FP 42). Besides strictly folk music, he has done recording for Decca of his own compositions with, as he says, "folk flavor." Among these are "Green Lilac Hill" and "Ramblin' Gamblin' Man." This latter was aired twice on the Sid Caesar "Show of Shows."*

Obviously an artist of Houston's ability would be in demand for radio and television shows. In the latter field, he is appeared on "American Inventory." During the first quarter of 1955, he was heard regularly over the Mutual Broadcasting System "as one of America's most authentic folk artists."

* Cisco has also recorded in the popular field with the orchestras of Lynn Murray, Victor Young, Gordon Jenkins, and George Barnes.

Bill Bender

William Bender, Jr., now a Captain in the United States Air Force reserve, was born in New York City on August 1, 1916. His early education, elementary and high school, was in the Mamaroneck, New York, public schools. After a year at Wesleyan University in Connecticut and two years at the University of Colorado, he left college and did not return until 1946. He was married to Jeanne E Lewis in 1943. In 1947, he took a Bachelor of Arts degree, cum laude, at the University of Colorado.

Bill Bender has been singing folksongs for some 20 years. His first paid public performance was somewhat accidental: on a night in February, 1936, he filled in at radio station WFAS, White Plains, New York, when the act originally scheduled became stalled in a snowdrift. Bender is picked up many ballads for many years, from old and new books, and for many people here and there. He says he doesn't read music to speak of, but he adapts the tunes until they become singable to him.

Bender has performed in eight or ten states, and during the war in Japan and Korea, and in Britain over the B.B.C. He saw Army service in World War II and in the Korean War. In the late 1940s, he did a series of American and Spanish-American songs for the Voice of America. Throughout 1951 he was the officer in charge of the radio combat reporters of the Far East Air Forces. Since 1951 Bender has been on the broadcasting staff of radio station WUOM, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Bender accompanies themselves on the Spanish guitar and has made recordings of frontier and cowboy ballads under Asch and Stinson labels. Ben Gray Lumpkin, authority on folksong records, speaks of his singing as "vigorous and pleasant." Another critic speaks of his cowboy songs as done in a sort of "genuine easy Westernism." His early recordings are now collectors items.

Additional Thoughts

We have never been able to find any copies of any of popular songs, other than those recorded with Gordon Jenkins. I wonder if they actually exist. And Bill Bender seems to have been an interesting guy. A piece about a novel he wrote, Tokyo Intrigue is Here. A wonderful magazine cover with a story of his is Here. I enjoyed his style very much in an article about New Guinea: Here. His dates seem to be rather different from those assumed: 1916 - 1975 Unless this is his son.....:Here

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