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.

Whiskey Island 

             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