In the early weeks of the pandemic, John Fogerty had a flashback as he was instructing his new band on the finer points of playing his Creedence Clearwater Revival standards. “I heard myself actually saying some of the same instructions I gave to Creedence all those years ago,” he tells Rolling Stone. “Trying to get the rhythm for ‘Proud Mary’ to be just so.”
The Covid-19 twist is that his “band” was actually composed of his three youngest children: Shane, 28; Tyler, 27; and Kelsy, 18. What began as informal, lockdown-inspired jams in the family’s Southern California home soon developed into a series of YouTube performances — and, on November 20, those tracks will be released as Fogerty’s new, unexpected album, Fogerty’s Factory.
The record is a nod, in both its title and on its cover, to the 50th anniversary of Cosmo’s Factory, the Creedence album home to their hits “Up Around the Bend,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Travelin’ Band” and “Run Through the Jungle.”
Fogerty admits that it wasn’t his idea to post covers with his family — including the 1970 classic, “Who’ll Stop the Rain.” Instead, the notion came from his wife and manager Julie Fogerty. “I resisted,” he admits. “I said, ‘Everyone’s heard me sing that song.’ Her idea was that it could be healing and useful as an antidote to the pandemic that was coming. She was seeing it more clearly than me.”
When Julie suggested he do more after the first filming, Fogerty also admits he was “begrudging” about it. “I hate to say that,” he says. “I’d like to take credit, but that’s not the truth. But she said it would be great to get it on social media.” (“By the way,” he adds, “I don’t walk around talking like ‘social media.’ I call everything ‘the internet.’”)
With his family sequestered at home during those early months of Covid-19, it only seemed natural to include Shane and Tyler, who play in a band of their own, Hearty Har, and Kelsy, a college freshman who began playing guitar during her last years in high school. “I thought it would be great having the kids play with me,” he says. “But it wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I realized we had a little family band here, like the Partridge Family or something,” he says, chuckling. “We couldn’t help making jokes about when the manager guy would show up. It’s kind of corny, but we were having a great time, and that was the whole point.”
Starting with iPhones and then working their way up to more pro-looking equipment, the group rehearsed, filmed and posted a song per week. What was it like instructing his kids to be his backup band? “I didn’t castigate my kids,” he says. “I talked to them like they were professionals. But it’s not supposed to be perfect; people aren’t expecting it to be your next single. We don’t have a drummer, but Shane has developed a bass style that’s somewhat percussive and Kelsy played some snare drum. The spirit of the thing was to be fun. It’s supposed to sound like a jam.”
With family in tow, he worked up a handful of Creedence tunes (“Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” “Fortunate Son,” “Proud Mary” and “Bad Moon Rising”). “We didn’t want to be typecast,” he says, explaining why he opted to sing two covers — Steve Goodman’s “City of New Orleans” and Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me.”
“Hot Rod Heart,” from his 1997 solo album Blue Moon Swamp, was chosen for admittedly nostalgic reasons. “Way back when I was working on that album, the first time I came home with a mix of that song, both of the boys got up and came down to the family room where I was listening,” Fogerty recalls. “They were four or five, and they were running around like a hurricane: ‘Play it again, daddy!’ So it’s a connection to the boys.”
(For anyone curious, the Winnie the Pooh stuffed animal seen in some of the videos is a nod to his bond with his daughter: “It’s something I’ve read with Kelsy since she was a baby. I’ve been mostly wearing Winnie the Pooh jammies at night. I know you’re getting a picture of that. I said that to Brad Paisley once and he looked at the floor and said, ‘I don’t want to think of my rock & roll hero wearing Winnie the Pooh jammies!’ But they’re not really jammies. I’ve just got two or three Pooh T-shirts.”)
According to Fogerty, it was Julie’s idea to name the group Fogerty’s Factory (“I probably would have called it the Fogerty Family, which is descriptive but … a little weak”) and also to recreate the cover of the 1970 Creedence album, which featured the band members chilling at their rehearsal space. Recalling the original photoshoot, Fogerty says: “There wasn’t a lot of preparation that went into it. It was quite lighthearted. It was kind of the antidote to the big professional album cover you agonize over for months and months. I grabbed an amp and a motorcycle. Doug [Clifford] had his bicycle. Stu [Cook] had his keyboard. We were kids.”
For the tribute cover, which he calls “very clever,” Fogerty not only enlisted his brother Bob, who took the first Cosmo’s Factory photo, he also borrowed a neighbor’s motorcycle to recreate his part of the shot. His son Tyler color-coded the image to match the hues of the original.
Given that Fogerty’s Factory includes a remake of “Fortunate Son,” how does Fogerty feel about Donald Trump using that song — about a Vietnam draftee angry about the privileged few who got deferments — at his rallies? “He’s been using it rather consistently, which to me is mind-boggling,” Fogerty says. “I think he’s the fortunate son, but in his mind, he turns that into a good thing. But he seems to relish going 180 on whatever something is.”
For the moment, Fogerty says he isn’t considering any legal action, unlike Neil Young. “I haven’t taken any action yet,” he says. “I may change my mind. But it’s sort of an empty exercise to call lawyers and write letters. He’ll do it anyway. And he’s got, what, a month? Lawyers don’t move that fast.”
If and when Fogerty returns to touring post-coronavirus, he’s considering taking along the family unit — assuming his college-student daughter would have the time or inclination. Perhaps they could even use a Partridge-style bus for the occasion. “There you go,” he says. “We’ll put our phone number and email on the side of the bus: ‘Weddings, parties…’”