By Jeff Vincent
In the teeming heyday of the late 60s and early 70s, just about every manner of music seemed to be springing from the richly cultivated soil of a counterculture youth. The intensity of the diversity cannot be overstated – as if on that seventh day, instead of resting, God said, “Let there be a big bang of all that is music caught within the creative hand of my children.” And so came forth the sonic onslaught.
From Funkadelic’s inventive brand of mind-bending psychedelic soul-funk, to the minimalism of Velvet Underground’s raw, grungey proto-punk that was as delicate as it was merciless… From Santana’s sizzling Latin-fueled, afro-Cuban psych-rock, to Dr. John’s gris-gris filled bag of voodoo slathered in southern grits spiced with essence of gator and a dash of calypso… This was the age of Strawberry Fields and Electric Ladylands, Nights In White Satin and Satanic Majesties, Crimson Courts and Village Green Preservation Societies… The time of Zappas and Beefhearts, Bowies and Floyds, Zeppelins and Sabbaths… The moment for splicing every genre together and creating new ones… Wedding classical and jazz to mind-melting progressive rock, or seeing what happens when Celtic folk collides with an electric spark… Moogs, mellotrons, wah-wah pedals and fuzz! Alongside fiddles, mandolins, harps, sitars and saz! And from the endless array of US and UK based outfits, to farther reaching corners of the globe with the likes of German Krautrock, Brazilian Tropicalia, and Anatolian Turkish delight… Where bustling scenes hid behind the Iron Curtain, or openly celebrated inside pre-revolutionary Iran and pre-genocidal Cambodia… With all the magic mixtures in between, from South America to South Korea and Southern Africa… One cohesive singularity resounded from the depths of this bottomless well:
The youth was rewriting the rules of engagement, and in so doing had reestablished new and everlasting marks on musical history. Ultimately, you had what anybody of age would now refer to as “kids” leaving indelibly timeless stamps on cultural humanity by way of their art.
And at all of age 22 in 1967, as recording for their debut album began, John Fogerty was in a curious lil’ band out of Northern California called Creedence Clearwater Revival (aka CCR).
Born On The Bayou?
Out of California, John Fogerty, together with brother Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Doug Clifford, developed the CCR sound into a perfect blend of soulful southern swamp rock with bits of blues, rockabilly, and country, that only occasionally ever so slightly pulled from the drug-fueled psychedelic periphery of the times. It was a clean sound; and yet it was also entirely dirty. Like, they played so cleanly, with such precision, even when they let loose and jammed on lengthier numbers, the band was as tight as it gets, but it still always had that country fried swamp stank all over it. Clean and tight as they were, there was always a thick layer of dirt on their boots. And down-home as it was, it also bursted with uncanny, hooky pop sensibility that would have our mothers singing their hits aloud while cooking in the kitchen for decades to come.
And then there’s the iconic voice of their lead guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, primary songwriter, and frontman himself, John Fogerty. Though he’d been born in Berkeley, California, you’d swear he must’ve journeyed deep into bayou country in search of some shabby shack concealed by dangling fingers of Spanish moss creeping down from knobby kneed old growth Cypress, which would bear witness, next only to resident fireflies, to a deal struck with the gypsy witch queen rocked back in her chair upon the lamplit patio, delighting in her designs for he who would emerge with one of the most effortlessly scorching singing voices rock and roll has ever known.
And man could that boy write a song!
Wrote A Song For Everyone
The CCR formula was completed and taken to the next level by Fogerty’s prodigious songwriting talent. He’s responsible for having penned at least a couple bundles of the most cherished classics of all time which would go on to soundtrack so many countless films and lives throughout the eons.
With numbers like “Proud Mary,” “Green River,” “Down On The Corner,” “Lodi,” “Up Around The Bend,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Who’ll Stop The Rain,” “Fortunate Son,” “Run Through The Jungle,” “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?,” and “Bad Moon Rising.” Honestly, the list goes on without even mentioning the smash success of their renderings for choice covers like “Suzie Q,” “I Put A Spell On You,” and “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” or stellar album cuts like “Tombstone Shadow,” “Walk On The Water,” “Sinister Purpose,” “Effigy,” and “Porterville” (which was a recycled single from when they were still known as The Golliwogs).
Creedence tunes had it all. It could be fun, with the obvious air of light and loving celebration, and storytelling just for the sake of good story telling. Sometimes it was darkly culturally relevant and painfully pissed off, or full of frustrated working-class rage. And for a singer who could really let it rip with that rusty, twangy screech, Fogerty also found a strong suit in painting pictures which would capture the sweet ache swirling within the deeply poignant, wistfully reflective end of the emotional human experience. And he was a master of saying it all within three minutes.
Under Fogerty’s direction, the band produced five consecutive top 10 albums, two of which hit number 1, and scored nine top 10 hits from no less than seven studio LPs released over a 4 year period between 1968-1972, three of those records falling within 1969 alone! For many acts, cutting three albums might just be representative of an entire career, if they could even get that many out – but all three in one year? We may never know what exactly was in the so-called Clearwater, but the artistic output from these guys was wildly prolific and they would ultimately go on to become one of the most famous bands in history, selling more than 30 million albums and singles in the United Sates alone.
And if CCR had never happened, but a bright and tight band of kids in their 20s came out with the same sound today — let’s just say, wash your noggin-slate clean of the desensitization that the redundancy of FM radio tends to hammer into it, and consider that if Creedence Clearwater Revival happened in the early 2020s instead of the late 60s— they’d still be an enormous instant success. That’s the timeless staying power of Fogerty’s legendary work.
Keep On Chooglin’
CCR dissolved in 1972. That same year, Doug “Cosmo” Clifford dropped a solo record for which Stu Cook provided rhythm guitar, and Tom Fogerty launched a solo career in addition to recording with Jerry Garcia and Merl Saunders (1973) while also producing albums for others. And our man John Fogerty didn’t skip a beat either.
By 1973, Fogerty had cut a record of country and western covers as the band The Blue Ridge Rangers, which depicted five silhouetted characters across the album cover, even though he was actually the only member in the outfit as it was an entirely solitary frontier with Fogerty manning every instrument. He issued a solo single in 1974, followed by a formal debut solo LP in 1975, scoring a few hits for his efforts, like “Jambalaya,” “Almost Saturday Night,” and “Rocking’ All Over The World.”
He then took a nearly decade-long hiatus before reemerging in 1985 with the chart topping record Centerfield, yet another lone project with Fogerty overdubbing himself on all instruments. It spawned the hits “The Old Man Down The Road,” “Rock And Roll Girls,” and, of course, “Centerfield.” The last of which saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee become the only musician ever honored by the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
Fogerty records continued to appear on occasion throughout the 90s and 2000s. In 1998, he was stamped into stone with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and also buttoned down a Grammy for Best Rock Album with Blue Moon Swamp. He was the recipient of the American Music Association's Lifetime Achievement Award for songwriting in 2009, and was granted the Icon Award at the 2010 BMI Pop Awards. But for fans of the good ol’ CCR days, it just so happens that in 2019 their entire 1969 Live At Woodstock performance was finally released (literally) from the vaults for the first time ever!
Year 2020 brought us a whole Fogerty family affair with a new album titled Fogerty’s Factory, from a band comprised of John Fogerty, sons Shane and Tyler, and daughter Kelsy, with wife/mom Julie producing, and brother Bob Fogerty managing. It focuses on retoolings of CCR and solo classics, but includes covers of Bill Withers’ “Lean On Me” and Steve Goodman’s “City Of New Orleans.”
And then there’s the 2022 first official release of CCR’s fabled 1970 concert Creedence Clearwater Revival At The Royal Albert Hall, joined by the correlating documentary film Travelin’ Band: Creedence Clearwater Revival At The Royal Albert Hall, which is currently streaming on Netflix and features never-before-seen live footage and narration by Jeff Bridges.
Throughout any of the years, on behalf of an epic legal battle to regain ownership of his own songs since signing all the rights to CCR’s output over to their record label’s owner in 1967 – a bum deal any burgeoning band fresh on the scene might have made for the chance to get a foot on the floor and a song in the air, and compounded in the 80s by losing his artist royalties to the same material – there were periods of Fogerty’s live career when he would refuse to perform any CCR material.
But this very year, over half a century later, John Fogerty has finally realized his long sought reunion. On January 12, only days after his headlining slot at BeachLife was announced, Fogerty issued a triumphant statement.
“As of this January, I own my own songs again,” he said. “This is something I thought would never be a possibility. After 50 years, I am finally reunited with my songs. I also have a say in where and how my songs are used. Up until this year, that is something I have never been able to do. I am looking forward to touring and celebrating this year… And I am excited for new ideas and a renewed interest in my music… like a revival.”
John Fogerty is billed as Performing The Music Of Creedence Clearwater Revival on Sunday, May 7 at this year’s BeachLife Festival.