Bill Houston

Bill Houston

BandFolkSinger/Songwriter

An incredible songwriting talent with IMAX film credits & songs included in elementary school curriculum. A genuine, warm and compelling performer with a diversity of styles & topics who leaves you enchanted!

Biography

In 1971 the first comlete full frame IMAX film “North of Superior” was screened at Toronto’s Ontario Place. Shown on a six story, curved screen audiences were awestruck by its unparalleled clarity of images. Partnered, in perfect harmony, with these incredible visuals was the song Ojibway Country written and performed by Bill Houston.

In the decade following, Bill composed material for several films, documentaries and commercials, established a music publishing company, developed his own small record company, Lone Wolf Productions Ltd., and released his own full length album The King of White Otter Lake. The title track from this album tells the tale of Jimmy McQuat, a persistent and ingenious man who built a castle on White Otter Lake near Ignace, ON. Jimmy became a legend and the song became Bill Houston’s most published and reproduced work. “The King of White Otter Lake” even made it into public school songbooks where it is used to teach, not only music, but geography, history and comparative literature.

In spite of his success in Toronto, and although his artistic vision had expanded to include the world, Bill realized his roots were in that great reservoir of the human spirit, the north. He decided to return. Marriage, two children and full time work grounded him in Thunder Bay. However, he continued to write music and play with local musicians whenever the opportunities arose.

In 1997, together with George Gregorovich and a host of other talented Thunder Bay musicians, Bill released an 11 song CD, North of Superior and was quickly booked all over Northwestern Ontario. People were eager to hear the mix of old and new material and to welcome Bill back to the stage. To date Bill continues to play for appreciative audiences in the region at house concerts, fundraisers, cafes, schools and festivals, but with only a small portion of the songs he has written available to the public, he decided it was time for another CD.

The result was "Bring Back the Music", a 14 song CD, released in the summer of 2006. With a diversity of styles from ragtime to lullaby and topics from historic rail lines to prescription drugs this most recent collection once again illuminates the incredible songwriting talent of Bill Houston. Backed by renowned musicians such as Chris Whiteley, Anne Lindsay and Grit Laskin and utilizing the skills of award winning producer Paul Mills, the album has found enthusiastic acceptance among folk aficionados and new-comers alike. In fact, at the 2007 Ontario Council of Folk Festivals conference two songs from "Bring Back the Music" received Honourable Mention in the 5th Annual Songs from the Heart Contest; “Trail of the Caribou” in the Historical category and “Blackfly (Secret Weapon of the North)” in the Humorous category.

"Trail of the Caribou" also received Honourable Mention in the 2007 International Narrative Song Competition.

Lyrics

Ojibway Country

Written By: Bill Houston

Ojibway Country the land of the tree
Brave wild and rugged cold and so free
Though I will claim you
I cannot tame you
So sang the trapper
The miner, the mapper
So sang the many
Who came by this way

Superior Country your mystery calls me
Time cannot date you, men cannot own
The cold winter weather
Will bind us together
Sang the railroader
The logger, the loader
So sang the many
Who made it their home

What kind of man will come to this country
To bear the discomfort and challenge his brain
For it will take him
Shake him, remake him
So sang the schemer
The poet, the dreamer
So sang the many
Who gave it their name

What kind of dreams provoke us to wander
When is the dreaming too late for us all
No rhyme can reason the time or the season
So sang the trapper, the miner, the mapper
And the railroader, the logger, the loader
So sang the schemer, the poet, the dreamer
So sang the many
Who answered the call

The King of White Otter Lake

Written By: Bill Houston

All up and down this land he travelled
Looking for a home
He was all of thirty-five
When he set out alone
His soul was burning with a fire
A curse was on his name
He was the king of White Otter Lake

Chorus:
"Build me a castle" she said
"Make it three times over my head
Glass in the windows and paint on the doors
Then my darling I will be yours"

For many years as seasons changed
He struggled with his task
No one knows how this was done
No one stopped to ask
Higher ever higher still
As it began to rise
By the shore of White Otter Lake

Chorus:

Then one day a message came
With words so clear and strong
A letter from his loved one read
"I've waited far too long
And you can have your castle fine,
I never shall belong
To the king of White Otter Lake"

Chorus:

Now the castle stands in tribute
but it stands alone
The picket fence has fallen down
The weeds around have grown
But the man whose heart and hands became
A legend to us all
Is still the king of White Otter Lake

Chorus:

Trail of the Caribou

Written By: Bil Houston

Near the coast of Hudson Bay
We met them on the trail
They'd come too late to catch the caribou
With hunger in their bellies
They knew they must not fail
The fish they'd caught would just feed one or two
There were only two of us
While they were many more
We gave them all the grub that we could spare
They could have taken everything
Including what we wore
But instead they thanked us for their share

Fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well
May their spirit ever dwell
On the trail of the caribou
Fare-thee-well

In the spring we happened
To be passing back that way
We thought we'd pay a visit to that scene
We wondered if the strangers
Had fished enough to stay
Or had to leave to look for other means
We found them all along the trail
they'd fallen one by one
Things to slow them down they'd thrown away
Clutching in their frozen hands
Just a knife or gun
Reaching for that non-existent prey

Fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well
May their spirit ever dwell
On the trail on the caribou
Fare-thee-well

We followed up that trail of death
With unbelieving eyes
Women, men and children lying there
Until we found the old chief, half way up a rise
But couldn't find his rifle anywhere
We travelled but a mile or more
Along that lonely trail
Until we came upon the final one
A girl of twelve or thirteen years
Lifeless, cold and pale
And in her frozen hand the old man's gun

Fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well
May her spirit ever dwell
On the trail of the caribou
Fare-thee-well

Now in the north the winter comes
To strong and weak alike
It chills the flesh and blood down to the toes
It comes to all who live and die
Beneath the northern lights
And takes what it can take, if you let go
But one thing it can never touch
Is hidden in the soul
A kind of fire that burns and never dies
And even though the frozen night
Will finally take its toll
That light will guide your way if you are wise

Fare-thee-well, fare-thee-well
May that spirit ever dwell
On the trail of the caribou
Fare-thee-well

Blackfly (Secret Weapon of the North)

Written By: Bill Houston/

There's a song I've heard of a man who found
A job in the land of the tree
With a survey crew he stumbled 'round
A picture of misery
And the tale he told was so full of woe
It would make a strong man flee
Of a tiny fly that will pick your bones
And never let you be

Blackfly, you've got them on the run
Blackfly, you don't even need a gun
Blackfly,
You're the secret weapon of the north
Blackfly

Now I've often wondered why it is
That I'm somehow still alive
For I've lived my life in that blackfly bush
And I'm almost ninety- five
And I've seen some things that machines have done
By the men who did not stay
And I hope the song of the little blackfly
Will scare their friends away

Blackfly, you make the blueberries grow
Blackfly, don't let anybody know
Blackfly,
You're the secret weapon of the north
Blackfly, you've got them on the run
Blackfly, you don't even need a gun
Blackfly,
You're the secret weapon of the north
Blackfly

"Oh the blackfly, the little blackfly
Always the blackfly no matter where you go
I'll die with the blackfly pickin' my bones
In north Ontar - i - o, i - o, in north Ontar - i - o"

Blackfly, you've got them on the run
Blackfly, you don't even need a gun
Blackfly,
You're the secreat weapon of the north
Blackfly

Little Green Pills

Written By: words by Carlene Hope, music by Bill Houston

It's O.K., it's O.K. to lock them in a home
Or leave them on the city streets
To wander and to roam
It's O.K., it's O.K. to put them in a jail
Stuff them full of little green pills
That keep their faces pale
It's O.K., it's O.K., true health they'll never know
It's O.K. to be that way ... the doctor told me so

The doctor said that it's O.K.
To move on with your life
"She's just a grandma and a mom,
Too bad she was your wife
She'll never be the same again
And it's no use to hope
You should take these little green pills
They'll help to help you cope
And it's O.K., it's O.K., true health she'll never know
It's O.K. to be that way", the doctor told me so

Well in the year just before nineteen fifty-three
There was a doctor who found a cure...
A real discovery
He used it once, he used it twice
He used it many times
It worked so well he thought he'd tell
The happy news on prime
Some other doctors took a look
And said "This cannot be"
I know that what they said was wrong
'Cause the damn thing worked on me!

But it's O.K., it's O.K., it's really just O.K.
To keep those monkeys in that zoo
On junk food every day
'Cause monkeys will be monkeys
And that's just the way it goes
It's not so strange to see them
Acting crazy I suppose
But it's O.K., it's O.K., 'cause all they need to know
Is when to take those little green pills...
The doctor told me so

I Will Be There

Written By: words by Terry Stiles & music by Bill Houston

When the light of a full moon
Seems to dance in the harbour
Close your eyes and I will be there
And the clouds drifting by you
Bring a tear and you're lonely
Close your eyes and I will be there

I'll be there in your good times
Or if love lets you down
When you're laughing, unhappy or scared
And I'll be there when you wake
From that long lonely night time
Close your eyes and I will be there

Winter's gone, there's a new life
Waiting on the horizon
Close your eyes and I will be there
All my dreams have not ended
For I'm right here beside you
Close your eyes and I will be there

In the warm summer sunshine
In the blue of the ocean
In the tender moments you share
You will not be forgot
Though the miles come between us
Close your eyes and I will be there

Close your eyes and I will be there

Discography

The King of White Otter Lake
North of Superior
Bring Back the Music

Set List

Set One
1 - Anywhere You Want to Go
2 - Lonesome in the Night without You
3 - Trail of the Caribou
4 - Don't Stand Up in a Canoe
5 - Moira and the Beatles
6 - Belly of the Whale
7 - Teaspoon of Love
8 - Humpty Dumpty (The Untold Story)
approx. 40 minute set

Set Two
1 - Stranger on a Train
2 - Ojibway Country
3 - Somewhere on the Moon
4 - Naturalized in the Blues
5 - My Heart's On Strike
6 - Blackfly (Secret Weapon of the North)
7 - Nobody Yodels
8 - Wings of a Song
9 - I Will Be There
approx. 45 minute set

Festival Workshop Ideas:

Story Songs
Lighthearted and Fun Songs
Political and Philosophical Songs
Love Songs
Journeys and Destinations
Canadiana, in particular, Northwestern Ontario
Optimistic Outlooks
Train Songs
To Your Health
Remember When…