There have been many bitter and awkward moments at the annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony during the past three decades. It’s an event that brings together bandmates that have sometimes not spoken in many years, often times after brutal lawsuits and mudslinging in the press. Few situations, however, were quite as volatile as what happened when Creedence Clearwater Revival got in back in 1993. The narrative for years has been that drummer Doug Clifford and bassist Stu Cook were stunned when John Fogerty refused to play with them, and stood near the podium in enraged silence as he went over to perform Creedence tunes with Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson.
In an exclusive excerpt from his new book, Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music (out today), John Fogerty finally tells his version of what went down that fateful night. He also delves into aftermath of that incident, when Cook and Clifford decided to start an oldies band called Creedence Clearwater Revisited, kicking off a legal rumble that continues to this day.
The Hall of Fame called in late 1992. They said, “We are going to induct Creedence Clearwater Revival into the Hall of Fame. Would you perform with the other band members?” I said, “No.” I had gone to every ceremony except one, so what I did tell them was that at the end, when everybody’s onstage, jamming, if we all happen to be onstage, that’s fine. I’m just not going to stand on a stage with those people, three in a row, play our songs, and be presented as a band — particularly because these guys just sold their rights in that band to my worst enemy. I also made it very clear that if I didn’t play at all, that was fine too.
It wasn’t like this hadn’t happened before. After Bill Clinton was elected, they wanted Creedence to play the inauguration in January 1993, and I had rejected it. I said, “I’m not playing as a band with Creedence. I don’t play with those guys. We will never play as a band again.”
Prior to 1993, there had never been a ceremony where the actual inductees played their songs. When Bo Diddley and Jerry Lee and James Brown got inducted, they didn’t perform at all. It just wasn’t done that way. The year that Creedence got in was the first year that the inducted artists actually got up and performed. So this was a new concept. After I made it clear that I wasn’t going to play with Stu and Doug, the Hall of Fame came back to me with another way of looking at it: they wanted the songs to be heard, so they proposed getting other people — including Bruce and Robbie.
I expected to have fun that night. But Stu and Doug were playing a role that they had concocted. Had I known they were going to pull that, I would have made a different speech. Instead, I sidestepped saying anything about group haggling and the chicanery that had gone on, and I talked about the great music we had made. The truth was, they had turned their backs on our group, dishonored the music, and sold out to Saul Zaentz, taking money and making a side deal that didn’t include me.