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Cisco Houston

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Gilbert Vandine ‘Cisco’ Houston (August 18, 1918 – April 29, 1961) was an American folk singer and songwriter who is closely associated with Woody Guthrie due to their extensive history of recording together.

Houston was a regular recording artist for Moses Asch’s Folkways recording studio. He also performed with such folk/blues musicians as Lead Belly, Sonny Terry, and the Almanac Singers.

Gilbert Vandine Houston was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 18, 1918, the second of four children. His father, Adrian Moncure Houston, was a sheet-metal worker. The family moved to California while Houston was still young, and he attended school in Eagle Rock, California, a suburb of Los Angeles.

During his school years, Cisco began to play the guitar, having picked up an assortment of folk songs from family. It is reported[1] that Houston was regarded as highly intelligent during his time at school, despite the nystagmus that afflicted his eyesight, leaving him to rely heavily on peripheral vision. He learned primarily by memorizing what he heard in the classroom. Despite his difficulties, Cisco came to be regarded as a well-read individual.

When the Great Depression struck, Houston began working to help support his family. In 1932, his unemployed father left home and a few years later Cisco went on the road, accompanied initially by his brother Slim. The years were spent traveling and working odd jobs throughout the western United States, always with a guitar at his side.

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