This week’s installment of Art of the Song features folk artist Bill Staines. Staines is an American folk musician and singer-songwriter from New England, who writes and performs in a traditional vein. He has also written and recorded children’s songs.
Raised in Lexington, Massachusetts, Staines began his professional career in the early 1960s in the Cambridge area. He began touring nationwide a few years later. In 1975 he won the National Yodeling Championship at the Kerrville Folk Festival. He performs about 200 times a year and has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, Mountain Stage, and The Good Evening Show.
Staines’s songs include “Bridges”, “Crossing the Water”, “Sweet Wyoming Home”, “The Roseville Fair”, “A Place in the Choir”, “Child of Mine”, and “River”.
His songs have been recorded by many other artists, including Peter, Paul and Mary, Makem and Clancy, Nanci Griffith, Mason Williams, The Highwaymen, Glenn Yarbrough, Jerry Jeff Walker, Schooner Fare, Grandpa Jones, The Grace Family, and Priscilla Herdman. Staines has recorded 22 of his own albums, 15 of which were still in print as of 2005. Staines’s songs have been published in four songbooks, If I Were a Word, Then I’d Be a Song; River; Music to Me: The Songs of Bill Staines, and All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir.
Staines is left-handed and plays a right-handed guitar upside-down, with the bass strings on the bottom. Consequently, he has developed his own fingerings and picking style.
In 2004 his memoir, The Tour: A Life Between the Lines, was published.
Staines currently lives in the Seacoast area of New Hampshire with his wife, Karen; his son, Bowen; and his cocker spaniel, Andy, who was featured on the cover of his album Old Dogs. His son also pursues a career as folk singer.