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Members included Douglas Ray Clifford (born in 1945 in Palo Alto, CA), drums; Stuart Cook (born in 1945 in Oakland, CA), bass; John Fogerty (born May 28, 1945, in Berkeley, CA), lead guitar and lead vocals; and Thomas Fogerty (born November 9, 1941, in Berkeley, CA), rhythm guitar.
Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR) endured a long career, but the band enjoyed only a few short years in rock's limelight before internal dissension broke them apart. Led by the vocally powerful John Fogerty, CCR released now-classic hit records in the late 1960s and early 1970s--songs whose popular lifespan is closing out its third decade. "At a time when the rock audience had already divided into antagonistic subgroups--hardcore rock and roll fans vs hardcore freaks, high school kids vs college students, AM vs FM-- Creedence kept us all, dominating Top 40 radio while continuing to be acknowledged as 'serious' by the industry/media/fan cabal that arbitrates such matters," wrote Ellen Willis in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. To honor the longevity of their music and their impact on contemporary rock, the group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
CCR began as the Blue Velvets in the early 1960s in El Cerrito, California, primarily as an instrumental act, with members John Fogerty, Stu Cook, and Douglas Clifford. Fogerty's brother, Tom, soon began joining their practice sessions and eventually became a full member of the group. The act was renamed the Golliwogs in 1964 after signing with San Francisco-based Fantasy Records; they didn't know about the name change until their first single came off the press. As the Golliwogs, the quartet had a minor San Francisco-area hit with a song called "Brown-Eyed Girl" but found neither fame nor fortune in pandering to the tastes of the general teenage public, who at the time were keen on peppy tunes from British bands.
Around 1967 Fantasy Records became the property of Saul Zaentz, an employee of the label familiar with the Golliwogs' work. Zaentz asked them if they'd like to do some more recording--and also suggested another change of name. The band settled on Creedence Clearwater Revival, taken from the name of an acquaintance and a beer commercial.
With the new moniker came a change of direction. Fogerty and the others focused on the kind of music they really wanted to play. The result was a more earthy sound, one that seemed to find a niche in the burgeoning rock 'n' roll scene around San Francisco in the late 1960s.
In the new studio sessions, this shift in style yielded "Suzie Q," a cover of a Dale Hawkins tune. The song became CCR's first hit. Released in the fall of 1968, the eight-minute track was recorded with a specific outlet in mind--San Francisco's avant-garde rock station KMPX. "I told the other guys that the quickest way we could get on the radio, therefore get more exposure and get this thing going was to specifically go in and record an arrangement of 'Suzie Q' that could get played on that station," Fogerty remembered in Rolling Stone. The plan worked and the song charted at Number 11.
A string of other hit singles followed, as well as a prolific five albums of original material in the space of two years. CCR's first single to reach Number One was "Proud Mary," released in January of 1969 and a staple of cover bands ever since. Like the rest of the group's output, the song was written, composed, and arranged by Fogerty. He also directed much of the studio work and made creative decisions for the band, a position of authority that he had to struggle to maintain when CCR finally became a success.
After the release of their first album, 1968's Creedence Clearwater Revival, the group began working on a follow-up almost immediately. However, while completing that album, titled Bayou Country, "we had a real confrontation," Fogerty admitted years later to Rolling Stone contributor Michael Goldberg. "Everybody wanted to sing, write, make up their own arrangements, whatever, right? This was after ten years of struggling. Now we had the spotlight.... I said to the other guys, 'If we blow it, the spotlight's going to move over there to the Eagles or somebody.' I didn't want to go back to the carwash."
Major acclaim followed for CCR in the early 1970s. Although their sound was rootsy, it was also hook-laden and lyrically assured; within months the group had become a major presence on rock and Top 40 radio. They played Woodstock in August of 1969, but had the unfortunate luck to go on in the middle of the night after a long set by the Grateful Dead. Fogerty, recalling the festival in a Rolling Stone interview with James Henke, remembered how excited they were--and then came the realization: "Wow, we got to follow the band that put half a million people to sleep.... These people were out; no matter what I did they were gone. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud." CCR did not appear in the film documentary or the live recordings of Woodstock.
Perhaps because of their mainstream success, CCR remained outsiders of sorts among the counterculture scenemakers of their era. Unlike other bands, they eschewed drugs and the rock 'n' roll lifestyle, although they did sport the obligatory long hair and beards. Like other bands, they were outspoken opponents of the war of Vietnam, but coming from a working-class background put a different perspective on their political opinions. Fogerty had put in time in the reserves and kept his fingers crossed that he would not be shipped overseas until his discharge papers arrived. He was perplexed by the animosity that many members of his generation held for the soldiers who returned from Southeast Asia. "I literally witnessed longhaired people walking through airports spitting at soldiers, and I just thought, 'How stupid! He just got caught, and you didn't,'" he told Henke.
These convictions surfaced when Fogerty penned "Fortunate Son" one day in less than a half hour. With its chorus of "It ain't me / It ain't me / I ain't no fortunate son," the song spoke of the ease with which sons of the wealthy and powerful were escaping the draft and the war in Vietnam. Released in November of 1969, the single reached Number Three and was included on the album Willy and the Poor Boys. Other politically minded songs followed, like "Who'll Stop the Rain," but despite the integrity behind their music, critics often lambasted CCR for their commercial success.
Dissension within the band proved to be a bigger problem, however, and one that began to surface in their records. "Their sixth album, Pendulum, released in December 1970, included what Creedence watchers took to be some tentative concessions to Art--stuff like improvised organ music," wrote Willis in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, but it was really the result of a more democratic creative process. Fogerty's leadership was waning, in part because of the effort it took to stay there. "I was not popular in my own band," Fogerty said in the interview with Goldberg. "I gave in 'cause I got tired, and that's what they wanted." As a result, CCR's final album together as a band--1972's Mardi Gras--took almost a year to complete. The record "wasn't bad, just mediocre. Its rock was softened and countrified," wrote Willis.
By the time Mardi Gras hit record stores, Tom Fogerty had left CCR to pursue an unsuccessful solo career, and by the end of 1972 CCR had permanently disbanded. John Fogerty began his own project, the Blue Ridge Rangers, and put out a solo release in 1975. However, legal problems with CCR's label, Fantasy Records, kept Fogerty busy for the next two decades. Because of the difficulties, he steadfastly refused to perform any of CCR's hits, although fans clamored for them. Finally, at a Vietnam veterans' benefit concert in 1987, Fogerty played them again, prompted in part by something vintage rocker Bob Dylan had said to him. If Fogerty kept refusing to resurrect his own songs, Dylan teased, the public would forever equate "Proud Mary" with Tina Turner, who covered the song in the early 1970s. "It was a very high point in my life," Fogerty said of the 1987 concert in the Rolling Stone interview with Henke. "Musically and even, I guess, nostalgically. Just because of what all those tunes meant to all those people in the audience. You know, we're all part of that generation, and it meant something to all of us."
by Carol Brennan
Creedence Clearwater Revival's Career
Group formed as the Blue Velvets, c. 1960, in El Cerrito, CA; recorded a single on the Orchestra label, early 1960s; signed to Fantasy Records, 1964; record company changed band's name to the Golliwogs; made several recordings; band changed its name to Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1967; "Suzie Q" became first hit, 1968; recorded five albums, 1969-70; Tom Fogerty left group, 1971; group disbanded, 1972.
Creedence Clearwater Revival's Awards
Inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, 1993.
- Selective Works
- Singles; on Fantasy "Suzie Q," September 1968.
- "I Put a Spell on You," November 1968.
- "Proud Mary," January 1969.
- "Bad Moon Rising," May 1969.
- "Lodi," May 1969.
- "Green River," August 1969.
- "Commotion," August 1969.
- "Fortunate Son," November 1969.
- "Traveling Band," January 1970.
- "Who'll Stop the Rain," January 1970.
- "Up Around the Bend," April 1970.
- "Run Through the Jungle," April 1970.
- "Looking Out My Back Door," August 1970.
- "Long As I Can See the Light," August 1970.
- "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," January 1971.
- "Hey Tonight," January 1971.
- "Sweet Hitch Hiker," July 1971.
- "Someday Never Comes," May 1972.
- "I Heard It Through the Grapevine," January 1976.
- Albums; on Fantasy Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1968.
- Bayou Country, 1969.
- Green River, 1969.
- Willy and the Poor Boys, 1969.
- Cosmo's Factory, 1970.
- Pendulum, 1970.
- Mardi Gras, 1972.
- Creedence Gold, 1973.
- Chronicle, Vol. 1, 1976.
- Royal Albert Hall Concert, 1980.
- Chronicle, Vol. 2, 1986.
- Solo albums by John Fogerty Blue Ridge Rangers, Fantasy, 1973.
- Centerfield, Warner Bros, 1985.
- Eye of the Zombie, Warner Bros, 1986.
- Nite, Norm N., and Ralph M. Newman, Rock On: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock 'n' Roll--The Modern Years: 1964-Present, Crowell, 1978.
- Willis, Ellen, "Creedence Clearwater Revival," in The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll, edited by Jim Miller, revised and updated edition, Random House, 1980.
- Periodicals Billboard, March 19, 1994.
- Rolling Stone, November 5, 1987; September 8, 1988; February 4, 1993.
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