Cisco Houston Web Site

Ol' Pals

Singing With Cisco Houston

John Gallagher

The great pleasure of this web site is communication from others with goodies to share. John saw Cisco when Cisco was in the UK on his way home from India, and has a few details to share. Wish he had a picture! But since we know so little, we are grateful for every bit. Thanks John!

I remember attending a show in Glasgow, Scotland. It was approximately 1959 or 1960. Cisco had been on a cultural tour of India and was very proud as an American citizen to represent his country. Unfortunately this elation dominated our conversation as I was asking about Woody, Leadbelly and all the prominent folkies he knew. I was the only one in the venue and was eating some fast food. I traded some food for a shot of his Martin 00016 New Yorker. As I played "Going Down The Road Feeling Sad." I then heard Cisco sing harmony with me, which was nice except his mouth was full of food, and I was sprayed with fragments of it. But he was a charming, laid back dude and we spent approximately an hour and a half, singing and chatting.

As a long time guitar player, and with a large collection of guitars, my recollection of his guitar was that it had a very poor action and the strings were pretty grim.

He was about 6 foot 2 with dark brown curly hair with a Clark Gable moustache. He wore his US military clothes that were in pristine condition, and also that he wore baggy corduroy pants, dark shirt and tie of his own. When other people started to arrive his demeanour changed and became quiet and withdrawn, maybe a form of stage fright?

On stage, Cisco made humorous references to his movie career. He said his first roles were "Thataway parts" where he sat under a tree at a fork in the road where the guys in black hats, who had just robbed the local bank went riding past. The guys in white hats would stop and ask which way did they go? Cisco would answer, "They went thataway," pointing to his left. Occasionally the director would let him point to his right.

He played his Martin alone, accompanying himself on harmonica on some songs (I think.) He offered a bit of preamble and then was straight off his recordings. His repertoire was the usual Woody fare; I recall "This Land Is Your Land", "New York Town", "Talkin' Dust Bowl Blues", "So Long, It's Been Good To Know You." The only exception I remember was a song he claimed he wrote called "The Ladies' Auxiliary", a song which, if I am totally honest, was better left unsung.

When the show was over, he was engulfed with fans wanting to ask him questions. Everything is relative, I guess, about 100 people max at the concert. The press did take photos, they wanted a rugged vagabond image. At this point, Cisco got pissed with their nonsense and started to give them some grief. His irritation with the press was when they asked him to remove his tie; he sarcastically replied " Do you want me to remove my shirt as well?"

I have seen Cisco in movies. One was a murder thriller and Cisco was a gun salesman and on screen for a few minutes and had a speaking role. Cannot remember the title of that movie.

For the skinny on the films John is referencing, see: Here.

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