Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



Rock band: John Fogerty (b 28 May 1945), Tom Fogerty (b 9 November 1941; d 6 September 1990 of TB, Scottsdale AZ), guitars and vocals, both b Berkeley CA; Doug Clifford (b 24 April 1945, Palo Alto), drums; Stu Cook (b 25 April 1945, Oakland), bass. They had 13 classic top 60 singles in pop chart '67-72, seven of them two-sided hits, and another hit '76, four years after they broke up. The greatest American singles band, they were to singles what The Band were on albums, summing up of an era's American popular music.

The Fogertys' collaboration with school friends Clifford and Cook began in the late '50s as the Blue Velvets. They signed to the Fantasy label '64, where John had worked in the warehouse, and changed their name to the Golliwogs, emulating UK 'beat' groups of the period (seven flop singles were later collected on '75 LP The Golliwogs). Tom had been the centre of the group; Saul Zaentz bought out Fantasy's co-owners in 1967, convinced the group to change its name and tied them to a typically bad contract of the time.

After the name change to Creedence Clearwater Revival John wrote and sang most of band's material; without visiting the bayou he somehow invented 'swamp rock', with drive, lack of pretence and Southern flavour, basic rock'n'roll not heard since the 1950s carved a singular niche while other (especially West Coast) bands espoused radical politics or drugs. ('I saw precious little entertainment,' he said of the music scene at the time. 'I saw a lot of noodling, and I'm not made that way.') CCR became a favourite of Vietnam GIs. They concentrated on singles, sneered at then, but the quality of the material also made classic albums and still sounds fresh as paint.

Their first (eponymous) LP '68 displayed roots, with covers of 'I Put A Spell On You' (Screamin' Jay Hawkins '56), 'Susie Q' (Dale Hawkins '57, first top 40 hit for Creedence). Bayou Country '69 included 'Proud Mary', 'Keep On Chooglin' as J. Fogerty's writing developed; Green River included the title song, 'Lodi', 'Bad Moon Rising' (perhaps rock's best-ever 'road' song, breaking the band world-wide), astutely titled 'Wrote A Song For Everyone' (Fogerty's songs have been covered by Elvis Presley, Bo Diddley, Dave Edmunds, Rick Nelson, the Searchers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Emmylou Harris, Solomon Burke, Ike and Tina Turner etc; the distilled essence of rock'n'roll for grownups seemed to include everything). The overtly blue-collar Willy And The Poorboys '69 included traditional 'Midnight Special', Leadbelly's 'Cotton Fields', Fogerty's skiffle-ish 'Down On The Corner', a two-sided hit with 'Fortunate Son'; also 'Poorboy Shuffle', an instrumental with washboard and harmonica. (The album title was later borrowed by Bill Wyman for his ad hoc group '85.) Cosmo's Factory '70 was considered the group's pinnacle; Fogerty called it 'the culmination of the whole thing', including a marathon re-work of 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine' (Marvin Gaye '68; CCR's single charted '76), 'Up Around The Bend', country-flavoured 'Lookin' Out My Back Door'; 'Who'll Stop The Rain' (later theme and title of Karel Reisz film '78, called Dog Soldiers in the UK) ('Run Through The Jungle' and 'Travelin' Band' were both featured by Bruce Springsteen during his '81-2 tour).

After Pendulum '70 (including 'Have You Ever Seen The Rain?', 'Hey Tonight') Tom Fogerty left for an unspectacular solo career (albums Tom Fogerty, Excalibur, Zephyr National and Myopia '72-4, Deal It Out '81, all on Fantasy); with Ruby (Bobby Cochran, drums; Anthony Davis, bass; Randy Oda, guitar and keyboards, everybody on vocals) Tom also made Ruby and Rock And Roll Madness '77-8 on PBR International. A live concert at the Royal Albert Hall, London, '71 was a souvenir of original Creedence lineup at their peak; meanwhile the trio carried on with Mardi Gras '72, the band sharing the writing, resulting in a weaker album, though John's 'Sweet Hitch Hiker', 'Someday Never Comes' were as strong as ever. Live In Europe was issued '74, but the group had finally stopped '72. Clifford released Cosmo that year on Fantasy.

John's Blue Ridge Rangers '73 was an album of traditional country covers which he produced and arranged, playing every note himself, but his name did not appear, intending the illusion that the group existed. John Fogerty '75 included wistful 'Dream/Song', rockers 'Almost Saturday Night', 'Rockin' All Over The World' (used on tour by Bruce Springsteen and by Status Quo to open '85 Live Aid show). Hoodoo '76 was issued a number (switching from Fantasy to Asylum) but was scrapped, bootlegs or demos escaping; 'It stunk,' he said. He was silent ten years, destroying unsatisfactory work to ensure against bootlegs; meanwhile Creedence played together at Tom's wedding late '70s, but John nixed a reunion. In '77 when he tried to withdraw his savings from a Bahamian bank it suddenly crashed; someone had stolen all the band's money, leading to years of lawsuits.

Creedence's already high reputation became a legend; the band's music was praised by everyone, used in films including An American Werewolf In London '81, The Twilight Zone and The Big Chill '83 etc. Centerfield '85 was Fogerty's dramatic return with a no. 1 LP; he again played it all himself, and layers of overdubbing resulted in a stiffness that Creedence never had, but good songs included hits 'Old Man Down The Road', 'Rock'n'Roll Girls', also 'Big Train From Memphis', pensive 'I Saw It On TV'. A potential dig at Zaentz 'Zanz Kant Danz' had to be changed to 'Vanz Kant Danz'. (Saul Zaentz sued Fogerty for plagiarizing himself, claiming that songs on the album closely resembled earlier ones to which Zaentz owned the publishing rights; he lost.) Fogerty did not tour to promote the album (didn't need to), but appeared at a Sun session '85, with Edmunds, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash on 'Big Train To Memphis' as a tribute to Presley. Album Eye Of The Zombie '86 again saw him arrange, produce and write it all, though he used Ry Cooder sidemen; a standout track was 'Sail Away'. Blue Moon Swamp '97 included Donald 'Duck' Dunn, gospel singers the Fairfield Four: the best tracks were 'Southern Streamline' and 'Blue Moon Nights': the downhome simplicity seemed hard to sustain.

Clifford and Cook played on Doug Sahm LP Groovers' Paradise '74; they made The Don Harrison Band '76 and Red Hot '77 on Atlantic (Harrison on keyboards and guitar, Russell Da Sheill on guitar, everybody singing) in the Creedence mould. Saul Zaentz (b 28 February 1921; d 3 January 2014) became an independent film producer, winning three Oscars for Best Picture, and remaining litigious. As soon as Zaentz had sold his interest in Fantasy, Fogerty re-signed with the label; according to one news report Concord, the new owners, reassigned the ownership rights to Fogerty. Meanwhile, with a happy marriage to Julie Kramer, he began to mellow; he said the idea for the album Wrote A Song For Everyone (2014) was hers, an album of duets, each guest choosing their favourite Fogerty song and putting their own spin on it: Brad Paisley, Keith Urban, Allen Toussaint, the Foo Fighters and others.