Monthly bill Staines, Folks Tunes Mainstay, Dies at 74

The folks singer Invoice Staines used to notify a story about the oddest line in his most effective-acknowledged music, “A Location in the Choir,” whose lyrics celebrate the range of the animal kingdom and, by implication, the human one particular.

Many thanks to many cover variations and a best-promoting image guide, plenty of small children and grownups could sing you the refrain:

All God’s critters obtained a position in the choir,
Some sing very low, some sing increased,
Some sing out loud on a telephone wire,
Some just clap their palms, or paws, or something they’ve obtained.

But what about the line that ends a single of the verses? “The otter has not got a lot to say, and the porcupine talks to himself.” What is up with that porcupine?

The line, as Mr. Staines usually associated, came from a tenting excursion he and his spouse, Karen Elrod Staines, took to the Tobacco Root Mountains in southwest Montana. Lying awake in their tent at 4 a.m., he listened to an odd chattering exterior.

“And I figured, Perfectly, they’ve landed,” he told the story to an viewers in 2009. But when he peered out the tent flap, it wasn’t extraterrestrials it was a porcupine conversing to alone.

Mr. Staines died on Dec. 5 at his house in Rollinsford, N.H. He was 74.

His spouse said the lead to was prostate cancer.

Ms. Staines, who functions in specific education and learning, claimed the track, which very first appeared on Mr. Staines’s 1979 album, “The Whistle of the Jay,” didn’t leap out at both of them as a job emphasize.

“When Monthly bill wrote ‘P.I.C.’ and performed it for me when I received property from college, we both equally shook our heads and stated, ‘I really do not know if this is a keeper or not,’” she reported by electronic mail. “Obviously and luckily for us, we have been wrong.”

The music has been coated by Peter, Paul and Mary Crimson Grammer Tommy Makem and Liam Clancy and numerous other people. A rousing reside functionality by the Irish team Celtic Thunder on YouTube has been seen over seven million instances.

“Songs are like kids you care about,” Mr. Staines, who recorded almost 30 albums, instructed The Sign-up of Yarmouth, Mass., in 2013. “You publish a tune and it’s born and you have to nurture it awhile and it grows up healthier and robust and then it develops interactions with men and women who really do not have anything at all to do with you. ‘A Location in the Choir’ has a lifetime of its own. It is like a boy or girl that’s grown up and gone absent.”

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 buddies, Dick and John Curtis, were being the catalysts for his executing career.

“When I was all over 11, Dick received a guitar, so of program I had to get a single,” Mr. Staines explained to The Patriot Ledger of Quincy, Mass., in 2018. “It was a Sears Silvertone three-quarter-dimensions guitar with a cowboy painted on it. I sanded the cowboy off the entrance, and Dick and John and I began a small rock ’n’ roll band, with get in touch with pickups on our acoustic guitars.”

Ahead of lengthy, he experienced absent solo and started crafting his possess tracks, upgrading to a comprehensive-measurement guitar, which he played in an unconventional way: upside-down.

“When I got my initially guitar, I picked it up and held it the right way, the right-handed way,” he advised the Quincy newspaper. “But I’m remaining-handed and it just didn’t feel correct. So I flipped it above and figured this have to be the remaining-handed way of taking part in. You know, a D chord is even now a D chord, so I just had to get to it differently.”

That approach gave his finding a considerably distinctive seem, since he was hitting the significant strings with his thumb. At the very least a person fellow guitarist was amazed.

“About four a long time in the past I achieved this fellow in California who was a amazing guitar participant, who explained, ‘I actually like the way your design and style sounds,’” Mr. Staines instructed The Wenatchee Environment of Washington Condition in 2009. “And I noticed him a 12 months ago, and he’d went out and purchased a remaining-handed guitar and was playing it suitable-handed. So that’s even a single action to the weirder.”

Mr. Staines wrote a great number of songs. A lot of evoked the all-natural environment, like “River,” a person of his ideal recognized, with its wistful chorus:

You rolling previous river, you shifting aged river,
Let’s you and me, river, operate down to the sea.

Other individuals have been character sketches — “pensive, probing narratives designed especially unforgettable by their means to translate the common specifics of prevalent life into tracks of uncommon eloquence and attractiveness,” as L.E. McCullough place it in The Austin American-Statesman in 1986. There was, for instance, “The Roseville Good,” about a couple’s initial conference and their enduring adore. Amid all those who lined the tune was Nanci Griffith, who referred to as Mr. Staines “the Woody Guthrie of my era of songwriters.” Ms. Griffith, who died in August, credited Mr. Staines with encouraging her in her have vocation.

Mr. Staines, an old-school troubadour who traveled tens of 1000’s of miles each individual yr to conduct, began out in coffee outlets and other tiny venues. Early in his occupation, he was M.C. of the Sunday hootenanny at the famed Club 47 in Cambridge, Mass.

He was even now a street warrior 50 percent a century later on. His most current album, in 2018, was identified as “The 3rd Million Miles.”

In addition to Ms. Staines, whom he married in 1976, Mr. Staines is survived by a son, Bowen Keith Staines, and a brother, Stephen.

Mr. Staines experienced an additional expertise: yodeling. He at times gave workshops on the talent. In 1975, he received a yodeling contest at the Kerrville Folk Pageant in Texas — “defeating some crestfallen Swiss yodelers,” The Christian Science Keep track of described.