If ever there was a one-man-band…it’s John Fogerty.
He pissed off the other members of Creedence Clearwater Revival by wanting to not only write, sing lead, and play lead guitar…he basically wanted complete control of the recording process. The thing is, their recordings came out great that way.
By 1973, Creedence Clearwater Revival had broken up, and this new group…The Blue Ridge Rangers…released their first album. Only it wasn’t a group, it was John Fogerty playing all the instruments and singing all the vocal parts on old country standards. The album contained no mention of Fogerty, until it was re-released with a new cover years later.
Two years later, 1975, John Fogerty released his first album of original material.
The self-titled album was not a big hit, but included two songs that would have been at home on Creedence albums….”Rockin’ All Over The World” and “Almost Saturday Night”. One of my memories of owning this album is that it was pressed off center. To play it without a lot of wow-and-flutter, I had to enlarge the hole in the middle of the record, which gave me room to center the album so it would track without the needle swinging back & forth.
Update: John Fogerty’s first two albums, Blue Ridge Rangers & John Fogerty are being re-released on vinyl August 25th, 2023. Hopefully, the records’ holes will actually be centered.
Legal battles with his old CCR label, Fantasy Records, kept Fogerty from recording for nearly 10 years. Then, in 1985 he “knocked it out of the park” with his best solo album, Centerfield.
The album went to #1, and featured the hits “The Old Man Down The Road”, “Rock & Roll Girls” and “Centerfield”, which to this day is played at baseball games. Again, John Fogerty played all the instruments himself. Other excellent songs on the album include “Big Train From Memphis” and “I Saw It On TV”. This last one is a clever look at history as it appeared on our TV screens from the 1950’s through the Vietnam War and Watergate. Here are the lyrics to the first half of the song, right up to where it’s “time to join the band”.
They sent us home to watch the show comin’ on the little screen.
A man named Ike was in the White House, big black limousine.
There were many shows to follow, from ‘Hooter’ to ‘Doodyville’,
Though I saw them all, I can’t recall which cartoon was real.
The coon-skin caps, Yankee bats, the “Hound Dog” man’s big start,
The A-bomb fears, Annette had ears, I lusted in my heart.
A young man from Boston set sail the new frontier,
And we watched the dream dead-end in Dallas,
They buried innocence that year.
I know it’s true, oh so true, ’cause I saw it on TV.
We gathered round to hear the sound comin’ on the little screen.
The grief had passed, the old men laughed, and all the girls screamed,
’cause four guys from England took us all by the hand,
It was time to laugh, time to sing, time to join the band.
The 1985 song was a precursor to the 1989 Billy Joel hit “We Didn’t Start The Fire”, which was also a clever encapsulation of history.
A weird thing happened after Centerfield was released. His old label, Fantasy Records, sued John Fogerty. They said “Old Man Down The Road” sounded too much like Fogerty’s own Creedence song “Run Through The Jungle”. The label had the rights to that song, and so they sued for copyright infringement. In court, John Fogerty used his guitar to demonstrate how the two songs came about, and how they differed. Fogerty won the lawsuit. The label even had to pay his legal fees.
Maybe a year between albums was not enough time, because Fogerty’s 1986 album Eye Of The Zombie, was a weak follow up.
There was still a lot of animosity among John Fogerty, Fantasy Records, and his former band mates…who came up with the name “Creedence Clearwater Revisited” to try to cash in on touring. John Fogerty refused to play his own Creedence Clearwater Revival songs in concert, because he didn’t want to make money for Fantasy Records.
Fifteen years after the 1972 breakup of Creedence Clearwater Revival, John Fogerty finally played a Creedence song at a Vietnam Veterans concert on July 4th, 1987. After that, he began adding the group’s songs to his concerts.
It was ten years before we got another John Fogerty solo album, 1997’s Blue Moon Swamp.
It was a solid effort and won The Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Songs included “Joy Of My Life” and “Hot Rod Heart”. Fogerty wrote “Joy Of My Life” for his wife, and even learned how to play a dobro just for this recording. (Update: The song is featured on Chris Stapleton’s 2020 album Starting Over.)
In 2004, Fogerty released his next solo album. It wasn’t great, except for the title track “Deja Vu All Over Again”. The song was about how the Iraq War was like the Vietnam War…all over again.
Just three years later, 2007, Revival was released. It’s a good album…#14 on Billboard’s top 200 Album chart, and #4 on their Rock chart. The standout track is “Creedence Song”, which really is a great Creedence song about the music of CCR. He also saluted CCR songs with his 2013 album Wrote A Song For Everyone, which featured Fogerty playing Creedence songs with many other well-known artists, including Country stars Miranda Lambert, Brad Paisley, and Keith Urban. My favorite is his duet with Bob Seger on “Who’ll Stop The Rain”.
John Fogerty, who turns 73 in May (2018), is still a popular touring act. He often does shows with other artists, including ZZ Top this year. It’s amazing how he came up with what seemed like his own genre of music, “Swamp Rock”.
He certainly wears “The Old Man Down The Road” title well, and the cool thing is how popular his Creedence and best solo songs remain today.
Update (1/12/23): 77 year old John Fogerty has gained controlling rights to his Creedence Clearwater Songs after a 50-year legal fight. It comes at a time when many older artists are selling the rights to their music.
(Please check out the earlier article on Creedence Clearwater Revival.)