Great July Jones (Cisco Houston)

As I’m picking songs to include in this project, one criterion is if no one else seems to be doing them. This one clearly makes the cut on that basis, since as far as I can tell no one but Cisco and I has ever sung it. Also because it’s one of his few original compositions, apparently co-written with Lewis Allen, the pen name of Abel Meeropol, who is better known for writing “Strange Fruit” and “The House I Live In.” When folk music became a pop commodity, first on the New York cabaret scene and then on the national hit parade, Meeropol was among the professional tunesmiths who tried his hand at writing pseudo-folk material such as Josh White’s “Apples, Peaches, and Cherries,” later a hit for Peggy Lee.

I had no idea Meeropol had a hand in this song, much less that it had been issued in sheet music with a mustache-less, matinee idol photo of Cisco on the cover, suggesting it was intended for the broader pop market. I thought it was just Cisco’s attempt to craft  a feminist cowboy song, and learned it in that spirit, since I was growing up in a feminist household and there weren’t many cowboy songs tailored to that audience.