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Behind Mumford & Sons' Jam With John Fogerty

'He had a better work ethic than anyone we've ever worked with,' says Ben Lovett

John Fogerty and Mumford & Sons perform during the Gentlemen of the Road stop at Francis Field in St. Augustine, Florida.
John Davisson/Invision/AP
September 18, 2013 9:45 AM ET

Mumford & Sons' Babel tour is winding down, but the band isn't slacking yet. For their Gentlemen of the Road stopover festival in St. Augustine, Florida, on Saturday night, they surprised fans with guest John Fogerty (along with members of the Vaccines) for a raw set of Creedence Clearwater Revival classics like "Proud Mary," "Down on the Corner," "Born on the Bayou" and "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" "My personal highlight was getting to play cowbell on 'Down on the Corner,'" says Mumford keyboardist Ben Lovett. "I've played air-cowbell to that so many times while DJ'ing at friends' parties. His voice right now is incredible. When he started singing those songs, it sounded exactly like 43 years ago."

Where Does John Fogerty Rank on Our 100 Greatest Singers List?

The set came together at the last minute when previously-scheduled fun. were forced to drop out after doctors told singer Nate Ruess to rest his voice. "That was obviously hugely disappointing news," Lovett says. "There were already thousands of people in St. Augustine. We had 24 hours literally to lock in someone at the last minute." They soon thought of Fogerty, who had once reached out to the band about recording together. "By five that evening, he was on a plane [from L.A.], flew through the night, and arrived in Florida on Saturday morning, at which point we were rehearsing."

Fogerty joined them for a four-hour rehearsal that day in a production trailer. "He said something along the lines of 'It's all in the groove,'" says Lovett. "The [songs]are very straightforward. It's not so much the content of the songs, but how they're played and performed and that's what makes them good. I think we were doing 'Fortunate Son' or 'Proud Mary' in the rehearsal room and we were just vamping and vamping on an E-major chord while he was doing a guitar solo and it was feeling great and he like, 'That's it. That's all it is.' It was very musical.'"

For Mumford, working with Fogerty was an inspiration in how to go forward in their career. "The guy has sold over 30 million records," says Lovett. "He's one of the most under-praised, underrated heroes in rock history and he was up for tuning his plans for the weekend, getting on a plane out, coming over, having a sleepless night just to play an event with us, which is hugely humbling and inspiring to see the real deal. He didn't want to take one break in rehearsal. He just had one bottle of water by his side and just kept on knocking in through for four hours even though he was going to be performing that evening. He had a better work ethic than anyone we’ve ever worked with." 

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