Left to right: Wade Mainer, Red Rector, J.E. Mainer, Fred Smith, Cisco Houston, Rosie Ledford, Woody Guthrie, Lee Hays, Sonny Terry, Minnie, Burl Ives, Lily May Ledford
During the fifties, Cisco Houston performed college, club. and church concert dates, with memorable appearances at Town Hall and Madison Square Garden in New York City and the 1960 Newport Folk Festival. He toured India with Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee, and Marilyn Child under the auspices of the State Department and the American National Theater and Academy; and, on his way home, he performed for enthusiastic audiences in England and Scotland. He was also a guest on numerous radio and television programs. His recording career boasted widespread representation on labels including Disc. Stinson. Folkways, Vanguard, and others. In 1965, Oak Publications put out a songbook entitled 900 Miles: The Ballads, Blues and Folksongs of Cisco Houston.
Houston and Guthrie traveled and sang together in the years before World War II, parting company when Houston joined the merchant marine, and sailed to ports around the globe. After his stint in the service, Cisco Houston stayed in New York for a while before crossing the continent to resettle in Hollywood, He rejoined forces with Guthrie and often teamed up with Leadbelly, John Jacob Niles, Burl lves, and other prominent performers and recording artists. He was part of Moe Asch's first Folkways recording sessions, and was among the singers who often performed and recorded with the Almanac Singers, along with Butch, Pete, and Bess Lomax Hawes, Sis Cunningham, Gordon Friesen, Arthur Stern, Josh White, Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, and Earl Robinson.
Cisco Houston was distinguished by his voice, a smooth baritone sometimes considered too polished for folk music. His voice was criticized as being too good, too professional, and lacking in authenticity. Cisco responded to this accusation:
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