Cisco Houston Web Site

Cisco in Print

Excerpts from "Woody Guthrie: A Life"

Joe Klein

Cisco Houston..."was a tall, quiet man with dark, classic features and a degree of sensitivity that would have been rare in any case, but was particularly striking in someone so handsome...he'd spent nearly all his life with his working class family near Pasadena. Woody found him to be a loyal friend, intelligent, kind, calm and caring...Will Geer landed Cisco his first job in New York City as a doorman, wearing a big fancy uniform with a cap and epaulets, at a burlesque house on 42nd Street. He was still working there when Woody opened for a week in early September, 1940 at a well-known midtown club. Woody asked Cisco to come up for a few duets each set. It was the beginning of a long, if rather sporadic, collaboration, and probably the closest friendship of Woody's life."

Later in the book: Cisco was not only "a genuinely sweet man, but a very brave one. Shortly after arriving back in New York (in 1960) Cisco learned he was going to die from stomach cancer. He kept performing until almost the very end... On an afternoon in February, 1961, Woody's friends gathered to play some music for him. Lee Hays recalled Cisco walking in, riddled with cancer, and seeing Woody there, shaking so badly (from Huntington's Chorea) that Woody could hardly hold on to his seat. Cisco went over to him... and kissed Woody on the forehead. Woody, who always was a macho sort and never much for physical contact, seemed to lift his head up in order to be kissed. It was a stunning moment. Cisco died on April 29, 1961."

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