Long Story-Whiskey Island
As I mentioned previously, I saw an article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer back in 1994 about the history of Whiskey Island. The article contained words like woods and weeds, dogs and deer. It all sounded so poetic, probably because I was so saturated and immersed in poetry from my class.
I read the article and in no time, wrote the music and the lyrics to the song Whiskey Island in rough draft form. About one year later, one of my guitar students told me that he knew the man who had just purchased the island and that he might be interested in hearing the song, if I had it recorded. It had not been recorded, but I tightened up the song, recorded it and gave it to Terry to give to his friend. I had visions of the island selling my CD as some sort of tourist trinket or souvenir. Terry’s friend listened to the song, but nothing ever came of it.
About two years later, I was teaching guitar again when a student named Dave told me that he ran a bait shop near Whiskey Island. He had an idea that, to his surprise, had been warmly received and had been put in motion by the “powers that be.” The Municipal Cleveland Stadium, which had housed the Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns for many years, had been torn down to rebuild a new Cleveland Browns Stadium. The original plan’s instruction was to dispose of all the demolished concrete in a waste dump, but Dave had a better idea. Why couldn’t the government put the concrete into selected spots of Lake Erie establishing fishing reefs? Much to Dave’s surprise, the mayor of Cleveland liked the idea. The governor and all the “powers that be, including the NFL, said yes. So Dave’s idea was implemented and the fishing reefs were created. Media in Dallas and Florida, along with ecology-minded groups all over Ohio, contacted Dave; he then became somewhat of a spokesman for environmental causes.
I had an idea that maybe if Dave listened to my song Whiskey Island and thought I was a good writer, he might ask me to write songs about the environment and back me financially to produce an environmental CD. I gave Dave Whiskey Island to listen to and he said, “You write really well, why don’t you write some environmental songs and I’ll back you. I will hand out your CD to folks at my speaking engagements etc.” I, of course, said, “Yes” and began to write environmental songs.
When I was almost finished with the songs, I realized that as a Christian; believing that ultimate answers to life lie in the true gospel; helping the environment is good, but if you’re miserable because you do not have a relationship with Christ, helping with the environment is not going to benefit you in eternity.
I wrote Peter on the Water. I perused the Bible to find as many references as I could about water so that I could witnessthrough the song:
When I reached the dry valley Springs started flowing Cause even in the desert Faith has a way ofshowing
You can come to the water When you’re dying of thirst
And I can’t remember if I’m last or I’m first
Like Peter on the water, I gave into my fears But in the fog and darkness
The lighthouse was there But then the Red Sea parted I crossed on dry land
But all along the way I felt Jesus’ hand
With that song finished, I presented the CD to Dave who then disappeared from my life. Why? I don’t know. I thought, well now I have a CD and no one to back me, so I’ll just put it out myself. I put out the CD in 1999. I sold a few, gave a few away, and performed songs from the CD live.
A few years later, my friend Dan told me that Emilie Richards was on WCPN national public radio in Downtown Cleveland talking about the book she had written called Whiskey Island. Emilie would be autographing her book at the Galleria in Cleveland and Dan thought I should meet her. I took my CD, got into the car, and drove downtown on that rainy day to, hopefully, meet Emilie. She was very pleasant to me. She gave me one of her books in exchange for my CD of the same title.I asked her how she came up with the idea to write the book and was told she had read, as I had, an article in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. That must have been a great
article to inspire both of us. I thought it was quite a coincidence and then I asked if she was Irish. Whiskey Island’s history is the history of the Irish settling in Cleveland. She said she was German, Irish, English, Welsh and French. It caught me off guard a bit; I was surprised because, to my knowledge, this was the first person I had ever met whose nationality mix was the same as mine and when I told her that, we both just looked at each other. Well that is, basically, the end of the story of my Whiskey Island CD.
Years later, I had Emile Richards on my radio program on WELW radio. Ron Somich, station manager, asked how I was able to get all these premier guests to appear on my radio program and I told him it was a long story.
The story I tell, a hidden mystery of people rocks and sand,
Steel and salt, nature flowing free hear the tale of Whiskey Island
Lorenzo Carter, was the first to settle there, then came Dave and Gilman Bryant
Distilled whiskey fought mosquitoes and snakes, thus came Whiskey Island
Then came the Irish, who lived and lie there, they struggled to make a dollar
They worked real hard, Sunday went to church, hooray for Whiskey Island
Railyards,factories,steam driven ships,changing the Island forever
Shanties of tar and tin in the great depression Hoovervile on Whiskey Island
Queen Ann's Lace,willows to the north, cottonwood,doves and swan
Sunfish pond, Monarch Butterfly, exist on Whiskey Island
Woods and weeds,dogs and deer seagulls circle the station
The Coast Guard's pride,broken men have called home,here on Whiskey Island
Moonscape of sand dunes,rock piles to the south ,600 miles of salt mines
Dinosaur Hullets,add to the ambience,pyramids on Whiskey Island