What started out as an improvised first verse to John Fogerty's 'Centerfield' quickly developed into a five-verse, 5:48 tribute to local sports icon John Adams, Cleveland's Super Fan.
Click on the image above to hear a sample of the acoustic CD track.
By Colin Dussault
On Friday, February 3, 2023, I played harmonica and sang with guitarist/vocalist Jim Tigue and bassist/vocalist Eric "Eroc" Sosinski at our scheduled Friday night Acoustic Trio gig at Bob Visnic's Oriole Cafe located in Berea. I, along with the rest of Northeast Ohio, was still struggling to come to terms with the news that longtime Cleveland Indians and Guardians drummer and my friend, John Adams, had passed away on January 30. After a brave fight, John succumbed to the health issues that had plagued him for the last few years of his life. While we loaded in and prepared to do our gig on this Friday evening, family, friends and fans were paying their respects to John roughly 25 miles to the southeast of us at Ferfolia Funeral Home in Sagamore Hills, Ohio.
Crestfallen, and with John on my mind and in my heart, I performed the usual set of tunes that the Trio beats out on a regular basis. But then something special happened when I called out for the band to perform "Centerfield" by John Fogerty, a crowd pleaser and mainstay in both my acoustic and electric band set. On this particular evening, with a great sense of loss hovering in the air like the smoke in a bingo parlor or an A.A. meeting from days past, the song took on a whole new meaning and nuance. As I began singing, something took over and instead of the original lyrics, I procceded to make up a new first verse about John Adams. "John Adams beat the drum for nearly fifty years, but he lost a big game today...knocked down by a fastball as the snow hit Progressive Field. Rounding third his friends carried him home/John Adams is gone, but his drum refused to yield. So take him home Coach/John's coming back home to stay. Take him home Coach/there's an empty drum seat in left centerfield." That's all I had at that moment in time, off the cuff and completely unplanned.
The rest of the song was delivered with Fogerty's original verses. Afterward, the crowd cheered and the night progressed. But I could not get that first verse out of my head. As I drove back home through the dark and winding roads that zigag through the valley and connect the Metroparks in Berea to my home in Lakewood, I continued to create new verses in my head, stopping every half a mile or so to save them in the notes section of my cell phone. (We've come a long way since scribbling down ideas on bar napkins, gum wrappers, spent lottery tickets and the back of paper receipts).
When I got home, I typed some more verses on my computer, merging them with the notes from my phone. I would wake up in the middle of the night for several evenings in a row with new verses and phrases popping into my head. I would write them down and then try to fall back asleep, only to wake up again and add to or make changes to the song. This vicious creative cycle repeated itself night after night and day for several days. During this time, I would stop whatever it was that I was doing and change a word here, add a word there. I would write a new sentence or thought down, over and over and over again. I ended up revising the lyrics 20 times in total.
As I wrote and re-wrote the verses, I reached out to music manager and friendDavid Speroto tell him about my idea to cover John Fogerty's "Centerfield" with my new lyrics. I know David has incredible contacts and friendships in the music world, and he has always been a gracious ambassador of goodwill to Cleveland musicians. I asked him to see if John Fogerty would be willing to grant me permission to use "Centerfield" in this way. David very enthusiastically replied "I don't manage John, but he is a close friend and I will get this to him personally." That was the vote of confidence I needed as I dove head first into this project like Pete Rose slamming into Ray Fosse at home plate.
Additionally, I sent copies of the song to Charlie Wiener and Mark "Munch" Bishop, both of whom offered me sage advice and provided me with much-needed guidance by way of giving the names and phone numbers I needed to move this project forward. This help, in addition to their positive reactions to what I sent their way, helped to move me along in the creative process like base coaches relaying signals from the dugout.
Finally, after a few days and nights of toiling over whole stanzas, single words and simple phrases, I was pretty content with what I had written. I then called my old band mate and friend Fred Tobey and asked if he would be kind enough to record a demo of the song with Jim Tigue, Eroc Sosinksiand me in his home studio. Fred, a former bass player from my band andFrankie Starr's Chill Factor back in the day, obliged my request. So on Wednesday, February 8, 2023 we spent several hours at Fred's place recording the track. I went back to Fred's on Thursday the 9th and continued to tweak and play with the recording.
After the session, I returned home and studied what we had. After a day or so of endless playbacks of the demo and more lyric changes, I decided to try to get a session booked at Suma Recording in Painesville, Ohio, to lay the down the song for real. Michael Seifert, who took over the fabled studio after Paul Hamannpassed away, was very accommodating and managed to squeeze us into his busy schedule. I was fortunate enough over the years to have recorded several CDs with Paul at Suma, and Michael has picked up right where Paul left off.
On Wednesday, February 15, 2023, at 5:00 pm Jim Tigue, Eroc Sosinski and I were joined by Jimmy Stamperout at Suma Recording . As my daughter Sophia, her friend Beatrice, my significant other Katie McGuire and Jay Johhson from theHonky Tonk House Concerts looked on from the control room, we recorded the song in one take with Jim and Roc in the live room playing together and me singing along from an isolated sound booth located off to the side of Suma's spacious live room.
I sang the song a second time slightly harder, but we decided to keep and use the first take. We then added a second guitar part from Jim Tigue. I overdubbed a second harmonica pass and Eroc overdubbed backing vocals on the chorus. Once that was done, we had Jimmy Stamper add a bass drum and the acoustic version was nearly complete. In post production I added a few baseball calls featuring Tom Hamilton and Herb Score from old radio and televsion broadcasts, and the song was ready to be mixed.
I sang a third lead vocal part and Eroc laid down a second background vocal track on the choruses, this time with a full instrumental backing track. My reasoning for that track was that sports radio might be more inclined to play that version over our longer acoustic version. The "radio edit," as I call it, is one verse shorter than the five-verse acoustic band track.
Things progressed quickly as I solicited sponsors for the project. I initally envisioned one of the larger corporations from Cleveland as the sole sponsor of this project. Sadly, I was unable to elicit a response from several of the larger entities that I reached out to. Those who did reply were courteous but informed me that they had "exceeded marketing and donation budgets at this time."
Luke Purcell, a former brewmaster at Great Lakes Brewing and current brewmaster and principal figure atCollison Bend Brewing did respond, though! He was very encouraging and offered to contact other local brewers in an attempt to get them to all band together to make contributions as a group and help further the cause.
Many other local businesses and friends responded as well, the first being John Langer of H. Jack's Plumbing and Heating. From there, Lakewood Dairy Queen,The Rush Inn,Sturgeon Plumbing,Speed Pro Imaging, Vertical Sound,Mullens on Madison, Barrio Restaurant,Fat Head's Brewery,The Fairview Tavern andCleats Club Seat Grille all contributed funds to underwrite the production of this CD.
The big boost came when the law firmElk and Elkagreed to contribute and requested to be the "cover sponsor." I was very grateful for this development and felt my hard work and belief in this project were beginning to pay off. These advances kept me going through my sleepless nights and long days of writing and laying out the CD booklet in between neverending emails and phone calls regarding the song. Thank God for Katie McGuire, who lovingly insisted on making and bringing me breakfast, lunch and dinner as I typed away on my two desk Macintosh computer keyboards and worked off of multiple screens, sometimes for longer than 10 hours at a time. She would cook and bring me my meals, placing them next to me on my desk in my home office and leaving me alone to work, quietly returning to remove the empty dishes, glassware and cutlery. She truly is an angel!
With some of the information that Mark "Munch" Bishop provided, I reached out to the Cleveland Guardians and they granted me permission to use the sound bites I had featuring Tom Hamilton and Herb Score. I made two mixes of the song, one with and one without the sound bites, in case they balked at the idea. Thankfully, they were very supportive!
I reached out toConfiance, LLCand cleared the way to donate proceeds from the sale of the CD to John's charity, johnadamsscholarship.org,a 501(c)3 he created to support arts and music.
I asked my friend and writer Greg Cielecto contribute an essay about our friend John. Within 12 hours of my request, Greg hit a literary home run like only he can deliver.
I spent the next few weeks laying out and creating the 16-page booklet that accompanies this CD while simultaneously making phone calls, sending emails, filling Etsy orders from myOrchard Groove Posters poster shopand squeezing in a fewband gigs before returning to my office to resume building the website and soliciting sponsors. This grew quickly from the original four-panel Digipak design to the current 16-page booklet with jewel case and tray card.
We are also working on a promo video with footage of John Adams that was generously provided to me by our friends atWJW Fox 8 Television in Cleveland. I am teaming up with OSV Studios to produce the video to share on Facebook and YouTube.
As of today, March 8, 2023, I am rounding third and headed for home. I anticipate being able to have this released in time for Opening Day 2023 on April 7!
This project has kept me very busy and has helped to mitigate the pain that has taken hold as a result of my friend's passing. I think that John would be pleased with how we all came together to make this happen in his honor!
20th Revision / Rewrite / Edit
Special thanks to Jenny Gillette for website and CD booklet editing
Eroc Sosinski, Colin Dussault, Jimmy Stamper and Colin Dussault at Suma
Photo by JW Cooper