Relax, sports fans. Steve Goodman's iconic Wrigley Field anthem isn't about to go, Cubbies, go.
A WGN Radio songwriting contest this spring "in search of the next great Cubs anthem" panicked certain die-hard Chicago Cubs fans, who assumed the radio station was out to replace Goodman's ballpark classic, "Go, Cubs, Go."
"When I first heard WGN was having a contest to replace Steve Goodman's song 'Go Cubs Go' my first thought was 'Why?'" one fan wrote in an online screed. "Steve Goodman wrote the perfect song for the Chicago Cubs. ... Twenty-three games out of first place, but that song comes on and nothing matters ..."
Goodman's song has been a staple of the Wrigley experience since the famed singer-songwriter and Cubs fan recorded it in 1984, shortly before he died. The song has been used by the team off and on at the ballpark, usually blared after every Cubs victory.
So not that often.
But during the successful seasons in '07 and '08, "Go, Cubs, Go" became a music sensation again as an online download and ringtone.
Last month's WGN Radio Cubs Song Contest, though, was solely an on-air gig.
"Replacing Steve Goodman's song was never the intention," says Chris Duffy, a creative service manager at WGN Radio and the creator of the song contest. "'Go, Cubs, Go' is a Wrigley tradition, and from the start we said this contest was about finding the next great Cubs song. 'Go, Cubs, Go' will always have a place of honor, as will [Johnny Frigo's] 'Hey Hey, Holy Mackerel' and even Eddie Vedder's 'Someday We'll Go All the Way.'"
Duffy explains he simply wanted to find something fresh for the Cubs' "new era." In his two years at WGN, he'd been using the O.A.R. song "This Town" as music for the introduction and transitions in WGN's broadcasts of Cubs games, as well as "about a hundred different versions of 'Take Me Out to the Ballgame.'"
"O.A.R. is a great Philly band, but there's lots of great Cubs music," Duffy says. "Just Google 'Cubs music' and you find all sorts of different contributions from fans and musicians. Chicago has a great local music scene. I just thought we could harness that."
Warrenville-based band The Fold won the new contest, earning more than 8,000 online votes for their original song "Let's Go Cubbies." (The runners-up: "Cubs Win" by 17 Candle and "Rockin' Right at Wrigley" by Derrick Procell.)
"Let's Go Cubbies" is a basic modern-rock song with driving guitar riffs and a sports venue-worthy stomp. A chorus of voices shouts the song title as the lyrics promise, "This is the season, oh yeah!"
The Fold is a quartet with three albums to its credit, two of them on Christian rock label Tooth & Nail. Their 2007 album, "Secrets Keep You Sick," was nominated for a Grammy in the recording package category. They'll be performing on this summer's Warped Tour, which stops locally July 7 at the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre in Tinley Park.
This wasn't The Fold's first ballgame, though. The songwriting team behind the band has had considerable experience writing songs for sports teams.
Brothers Daniel and George Castady lead The Fold but also work as corporate jingle writers. Through their production company, Token Blokes, they've crafted "brand enhancing" music for AT&T, Hershey, Nascar, Lego and more. Last year, they contracted with Banshee Music to compose two songs for each team in the NFL -- that's 64 songs -- music that has been blared as teams take the field, score touchdowns or pause for TV breaks.
"It's the same idea as this Cubs search," says Daniel Castady. "They get sick of licensing, like, 'Cat Scratch Fever' for the [Carolina] Panthers, and they think, 'Wouldn't it be great to have a song tailored for our team and we actually own it?' ... A friend emailed us the announcement of this Cubs contest, and we thought, 'We can't screw this up because we're actually fans!'"
Castady says he's had to do his share of reassuring fellow fans that "Let's Go Cubbies" will not replace "Go, Cubs, Go" at the ballpark.
"That was never the goal," he says. "Ours, fortunately, will be just another song to add. Ultimately, it's the Wrigley fans that make these things stick. Even the Steve Goodman song -- I don't think that was meant to be the Cubs song for all time. It was just embraced."
"If the Cubs decide in some way, shape or form to adopt 'Let's Go Cubbies,' hey, great," Duffy adds. "We're all too willing. But when the Cubs win their opener on Thursday, you'll still hear 'Go, Cubs, Go.'"
The Fold will perform "Let's Go Cubbies" live around 8 a.m. Thursday in the Captain Morgan Club at Wrigley Field as part of the Cubs' opening day festivities.