The folk singer Bill Staines employed to notify a story about the oddest line in his best-recognised music, “A Put in the Choir,” whose lyrics rejoice the diversity of the animal kingdom and, by implication, the human 1.
Thanks to numerous address versions and a most effective-selling image guide, many children and grown ups could sing you the refrain:
All God’s critters bought a spot in the choir,
Some sing very low, some sing greater,
Some sing out loud on a phone wire,
Some just clap their palms, or paws, or anything at all they’ve got.
But what about the line that finishes 1 of the verses? “The otter has not got a great deal to say, and the porcupine talks to himself.” What is up with that porcupine?
The line, as Mr. Staines often connected, arrived from a camping vacation that he and his wife, Karen Elrod Staines, took to the Tobacco Root Mountains in southwest Montana. Lying awake in their tent at 4 a.m., he read an odd chattering exterior.
“And I figured, Effectively, they’ve landed,” he told the tale to an audience in 2009. But when he peered out the tent flap, it was not extraterrestrials it was a porcupine chatting to by itself.
Mr. Staines died on Dec. 5 at his house in Rollinsford, N.H. He was 74. His spouse stated the result in was prostate cancer.
Ms. Staines, who works in exclusive education and learning, reported the music, which initially appeared on Mr. Staines’s 1979 album, “The Whistle of the Jay,” didn’t leap out at possibly of them as a profession spotlight.
“When Bill wrote ‘P.I.C.’ and played it for me when I obtained house from faculty, we the two shook our heads and reported, ‘I don’t know if this is a keeper or not,’” she mentioned by e-mail. “Obviously and luckily for us, we have been mistaken.”
The tune has been lined by Peter, Paul and Mary Pink Grammer Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy and quite a few others. A rousing stay effectiveness by the Irish team Celtic Thunder on YouTube has been seen above seven million situations.
“Songs are like youngsters you care about,” Mr. Staines, who recorded almost 30 albums, told The Register of Yarmouth, Mass., in 2013. “You publish a music and it is born and you have to nurture it awhile and it grows up nutritious and powerful and then it develops associations with men and women who really do not have nearly anything to do with you. ‘A Area in the Choir’ has a everyday living of its personal. It is like a child that is grown up and gone away.”
William Russell Staines was born on Feb. 6, 1947, in Medford, Mass., to William Henry and Dorothy (Trask) Staines. He grew up in Lexington, Mass., and two boyhood mates, Dick and John Curtis, ended up the catalysts for his performing career.
“When I was about 11, Dick acquired a guitar, so of course I had to get 1,” Mr. Staines instructed The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., in 2018. “It was a Sears Silvertone 3-quarter-dimension guitar with a cowboy painted on it. I sanded the cowboy off the front, and Dick and John and I commenced a minor rock ’n’ roll band, with get hold of pickups on our acoustic guitars.”
Before extended, he experienced gone solo and begun creating his personal music, and also upgrading to a full-dimension guitar, which he performed in an abnormal way: upside-down.
“When I acquired my initial guitar, I picked it up and held it the suitable way, the ideal-handed way,” he informed the Quincy newspaper. “But I’m remaining-handed, and it just did not truly feel suitable. So I flipped it about and figured this need to be the still left-handed way of enjoying. You know, a D chord is however a D chord, so I just had to get to it differently.”
That solution gave his finding a considerably diverse seem, because he was hitting the higher strings with his thumb. At least one fellow guitarist was amazed.
“About 4 several years ago I satisfied this fellow in California who was a excellent guitar participant, who reported, ‘I actually like the way your design sounds,’” Mr. Staines told The Wenatchee World of Washington Point out in 2009. “And I saw him a calendar year in the past, and he’d went out and purchased a still left-handed guitar and was enjoying it correct-handed. So which is even a person stage to the weirder.”
Mr. Staines wrote countless tracks. Numerous evoked the natural entire world, like “River,” a single of his greatest known, with its wistful refrain:
You rolling aged river, you altering outdated river,
Let’s you and me, river, run down to the sea.
Others were character sketches — “pensive, probing narratives built especially memorable by their ability to translate the frequent aspects of popular lives into tunes of unusual eloquence and elegance,” as L.E. McCullough place it in The Austin American-Statesman in 1986. There was, for occasion, “The Roseville Reasonable,” about a couple’s first assembly and their enduring really like. Among those who covered the tune was Nanci Griffith, who called Mr. Staines “the Woody Guthrie of my technology of songwriters.” Ms. Griffith, who died in August, credited Mr. Staines with encouraging her in her individual profession.
Mr. Staines, an outdated-faculty troubadour who traveled tens of thousands of miles each and every 12 months to carry out, begun out in coffee outlets and other small venues. Early in his profession, he was M.C. of the Sunday hootenanny at the famed Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass.
He was nonetheless a highway warrior half a century later. His most recent album, in 2018, was called “The 3rd Million Miles.”
In addition to Ms. Staines, whom he married in 1976, Mr. Staines is survived by a son, Bowen, and a brother, Stephen.
Mr. Staines experienced a different talent: yodeling. He from time to time gave workshops on the skill. In 1975, he won a yodeling contest at the Kerrville People Competition in Texas — “defeating some crestfallen Swiss yodelers,” The Christian Science Keep an eye on reported.