Once they took flight, Creedence Clearwater Revival was like a shooting star.
After early band names The Blue Velvets, and The Golliwogs…John Fogerty (lead guitar & vocals), his brother Tom Fogerty (guitar), Stu Cook (bass & keyboards), and Doug Clifford (drums) settled on the name Creedence Clearwater Revival. They say the name was a combination of a friend (Credence, they changed the spelling), a beer commercial (clear water) and getting the band together after various interruptions (revival).
(John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, Tom Fogerty, and Stu Cook)
Their first album Creedence Clearwater Revival was released in 1968. It didn’t make a big splash, but their remake of “Suzie Q” received airplay, and made it to number eleven in Billboard. Things would get better in 1969.
John Fogerty has said in interviews that he felt the next album had to be good…that it was make or break for the band. He took control. Fogerty wrote the songs, sang the songs, played lead guitar, and frankly limited input from the other band members. Their second album, Bayou Country, released January 5th, 1969 was not a great album, but it contained a great single, “Proud Mary”. This was the song that launched the band.
The other strong song on the album is “Born On The Bayou”. The term “swamp rock” was applied to the music of this group from California. It was a sound Fogerty liked, and it paid off. “Proud Mary” went to #2 on the Hot 100 chart. Creedence would go on to have a total of 5 singles reach the #2 position in Billboard, and never had a #1 single out of 17 Top 40 hits.
CCR’s second album of 1969 (June), Green River, was a perfect follow up, and John Fogerty says it’s their best. It went to #1 on the album charts, and included “Bad Moon Rising”, “Lodi”, “Commotion”, “Wrote A Song For Everyone”, “Cross Tie Walker”, and of course “Green River”. CCR was all over AM & FM radio. The local band I was in at the time, The Rock & Soul Society, played “Proud Mary”, “Bad Moon Rising” and “Lodi” as part of our regular set list.
Creedence was not done with 1969. In October, Willy And The Poor Boys was released. It made it to #3 on the album chart, and included “Down On The Corner”, “Fortunate Son”, and a great remake of “Midnight Special”. The year was like a successful career for some bands…3 albums , 7 hit singles, and a lot more album cuts getting FM airplay.
More success was on the way, but unfortunately, the band was having internal struggles. The other members of the band were not happy with John Fogerty’s almost total domination. John, who can play all the instruments well, didn’t want to relinquish control, because he thought their recordings would suffer. John was writing the songs, arranging them, and producing them, besides singing lead, playing lead guitar, and adding other instruments.
The result was another #1 album in July of 1970, Cosmo’s Factory. It’s right there with Green River in vying for best album. Cosmo’s Factory includes “Travelin’ Band”, “Who’ll Stop The Rain”, “Up Around The Bend”, “Run Through The Jungle”, and “Looking Out My Back Door”. That’s 5 hits on one album, and it was their 4th album in just over a year and a half!
December of 1970 brought the release of Pendulum. It was the band’s 6th album and included two hits…”Hey Tonight”, and “Have You Ever Seen The Rain”. Fogerty has said that the line “Have you ever seen the rain comin’ down on a sunny day?” referred to all the problems the band was having amidst all the success. After this album, John’s brother, Tom, quit the band.
Which brings us to 1972 and CCR’s last album Mardi Gras. It was anything but a party. Famous Rolling Stone reviewer John Landau called it “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band.” What was different about it? Fogerty decided to relinquish control, and let the other members write songs, sing, and produce on it. Two Fogerty songs from it were hits…”Sweet Hitch Hiker” and “Someday Never Comes”, but they’re hardly among CCR’s best songs. Creedence broke up.
Creedence Clearwater Revival had been the most popular band in the country in 1969, 1970, and into early 1971…but they burned out quickly. Their recordings remain among the most popular from the era.
The animosity among the band members has never been reconciled. Even when CCR was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 John Fogerty played with musicians that did not include Stu Cook or Doug Clifford. Fogerty’s brother Tom had passed away at age 48 (in 1990) from an infection following back surgery.
Cook and Clifford tried to tour as Creedence Clearwater Revival, but were forced to change the name to Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
John Fogerty felt that their label, Fantasy Records, had taken advantage of his band, and had never restructured CCR’s contract to more favorable terms. The legal dispute would delay his own solo success for over a decade.
Eventually, John Fogerty had a solid solo career, and made peace with his own CCR legacy. Because his solo career deserves more space, it will have to be in another article. We’ll catch up with “The Old Man Down The Road”.