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Creedence Clearwater Revival

Biography

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Thanks largely to John Fogerty's rough, inimitable voice and seemingly bottomless supply of great melodies, Creedence Clearwater Revival were the preeminent American singles band of the late Sixties and early Seventies.

John Fogerty and his brother Tommy were raised in Berkeley, where John studied piano and at the age of 12 got his first guitar. He met bandmates Cook and Clifford at El Cerrito junior high school, and by 1959 the group was performing at local dances as Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets. In 1964 the quartet signed to San Francisco-based Fantasy Records, where Tom had been working as a packing and shipping clerk. The label renamed them the Golliwogs and began putting out singles. "Brown-Eyed Girl" sold 10,000 copies in 1965, but the followups were flops. Greater success came after they adopted the CCR moniker in 1967.

Several Fogerty compositions appeared on Creedence Clearwater Revival, but cover versions of Dale Hawkins' "Suzie Q" and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You" were the group's first hits. With the release of Bayou Country, Creedence became the most popular rock band in America. Beginning with the two-sided gold hit "Proud Mary" (Number Two, 1969) b/w "Born on the Bayou," Creedence dominated Top Forty radio for two years without disappointing the anticommercial element of the rock audience.

CCR's rough-hewn rockers often dealt with political and cultural issues, and the quartet appeared at the Woodstock Festival. Creedence had seven major hit singles in 1969 and 1970, including "Bad Moon Rising" (Number Two, 1969), "Green River" (Number Two, 1969), "Fortunate Son" (Number 14, 1969), "Down on the Corner" (Number Three, 1969), "Travelin' Band" (Number Two, 1970), "Up Around the Bend" (Number Four, 1970), and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" (Number Two, 1970).

Although Creedence's success continued after Cosmo's Factory, it was the group's artistic peak. Internal dissension, primarily the result of John Fogerty's dominant role, began to pull the band apart in the early '70s. Tom left in January 1971, one month after the release of the pivotal Pendulum which became the group's fifth platinum album. Creedence carried on as a trio, touring worldwide; Live in Europe was the recorded result. CCR's final album, Mardi Gras, gave Cook and Clifford an equal share of the songwriting and lead vocals. It was the band's first album not to go platinum. Creedence disbanded in October 1972, and Fantasy has subsequently released a number of albums, including a live recording of a 1970 Oakland concert, which upon original release was erroneously titled Live at Albert Hall (it was later retitled The Concert).

Tom Fogerty released a number of albums on his own and with his band Ruby, and worked occasionally in the early Seventies with organist Merle Saunders and Grateful Dead guitarist Jerry Garcia. He moved to Arizona in the mid-Eighties and died there from respiratory failure brought on by AIDS in 1990 at age 48. Clifford released a solo album in 1972 of Fifties-style rock & roll. Thereafter, he and Cook provided the rhythm section for Doug Sahm on his 1974 LP and the Don Harrison Band after 1976. In the mid-Eighties Cook joined country group Southern Pacific, which had several hits.

Not surprisingly, John Fogerty's solo pursuits have attracted the greatest attention. Immediately after the breakup he released a bluegrass/country album, The Blue Ridge Rangers, on which he played all the instruments. Two songs, the Hank Williams classic "Jambalaya (On the Bayou)" and "Hearts of Stone," made the Top Forty. Nearly three years passed before his next LP, another one-man show titled John Fogerty. It sold poorly, and his next album, to be called Hoodoo, was rejected by Asylum Records. Fogerty and his family retired to a farm in rural Oregon. He was barely seen for the next decade.

He emerged with Centerfield (Number One, 1985), a typically simple, tuneful collection that sold two million copies and produced hit singles in "The Old Man Down the Road" (Number 10, 1985), "Rock and Roll Girls" (Number 20, 1985), and "Centerfield" (Number 44, 1985). "Old Man" and another song from the album, "Zanz Kant Danz," landed Fogerty in legal trouble. The latter, a thinly veiled attack against Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz ("Zanz can't dance but he'll steal your money"), led Zaentz to sue for $142 million, not only over that song, but over "Old Man": Fantasy claimed the song plagiarized the music of the 1970 CCR B side "Run Through the Jungle." In 1988 a jury ruled in Fogerty's favor; six years later the Supreme Court ordered Fantasy to reimburse Fogerty for over $1 million in lawyers' fees.

For years Fogerty refused to perform CCR songs live; he'd had to surrender his artist's royalties on them to get out of his Fantasy contract in the Seventies. But at Tom Fogerty's wedding in 1980 and the El Cerrito High School reunion in 1983 Fogerty briefly put aside his bitterness to play a handful of Creedence classics with his former bandmates. The brief sets would be the last time he'd ever perform his old band. Three years later, at the July 4, 1987 concert for Vietnam veterans in Washington, DC, he broke the boycott for the first time at a public concert, singing eight Creedence classics. He then dropped out of sight again, surfacing only for the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremonies; in 1993 his own turn came when CCR were inducted into the hall. Fogerty refused to perform with Cook and Clifford that evening. The rhythm section found out they weren't going to perform hours before the ceremony, leaving them to stand awkwardly by the side of the stage while Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson while Fogerty sang "Born On The Bayou." By this point any lingering hopes fans had for a CCR reunion were extinguished.

Fogerty released Blue Moon Swamp (Number 37, 1997); inspired by several trips to the Mississippi Delta, the album had taken over four years to make. The single "Southern Streamline" hit Number 67 on the C&W chart. Fogerty followed up the release with an extensive U.S. tour on which he played many CCR classics such as "Proud Mary" and "Fortunate Son" along with his new material; the live album Premonition (Number 29) was released the following year.

In 1995 Cook and Clifford started touring as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Fogerty sued and won a temporary injunction barring them from using that name, but his former bandmates ultimately prevailed in the case. Both camps are now regulars on the summer concert circuit, playing shows with remarkably similar setlists.

Fogerty has stayed busy as a recording artist in recent years as well. In 2004 he released Déjà vu, whose title referred to similarities between the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Fogerty followed with 2007's Revival and 2009's The Blue Ridge Rangers Ride Again, the latter a sequel to 1973's Blue Ridge Rangers. The album featured guests like Bruce Springsteen and found Fogerty singing rootsy, fiddle-laden covers of obscure songs by John Prine, Buck Owens and others.

Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Andy Greene contributed to this article.

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