Woodstock Performers: Creedence Clearwater Revival
Creedence Clearwater Revival finally took the stage after a long, long Grateful Dead set (even by their standards). This meant that it was after midnight and now into Sunday when Creedence Clearwater Revival finally took the stage at Woodstock. Anyone who had wandered off to go to sleep missed one for the ages.
This series of articles—32 in all—covers each of the artists who performed at the original Woodstock festival (August 15-18, 1969). The Grateful Dead had just wrapped up an uneven set that included a power outage. Next up, after CCR, would come the Queen of Psychedelic Soul, Janis Joplin.
Who Is John Fogerty?
John Cameron Fogerty was born on May 28, 1945 in Berkeley, California. Growing up in a family of five boys, John started learning to play the guitar when he was only 12, and he took his first guitar lessons while he was still in high school. He got his very first electric guitar in 1958 from Sears, of all places.
In 1959, Fogerty started a trio with two friends from high school, featuring Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums. Calling themselves the "Blue Velvets," their material consisted primarily of covers of early rock 'n' rollers like Bo Didley and Little Richard. Fogerty's brother Tom was the final member to join, rounding out the lineup on rhythm guitar. They actually landed a contract in 1964 and recorded and released a number of singles for Fantasy Records under the name "Golliwogs."
In 1966, Uncle Sam came knocking. John received his draft notice and on that very same day, he signed up with the Army Reserves. Apparently, the officer there backdated John's application so that it would appear as though he had signed up for the Reserves prior to receiving his draft card. And so it was that instead of shipping off to Vietnam, John served his country state-side.
John was discharged in July 1967 and eager to get the band going again. Fantasy Records had been sold by its original owners to a number of its partners, among them Saul Zaentz. Zaentz hated the name "Golliwogs," and insisted they change their name if they wanted to record an LP. Everyone was in agreement, and Creedence Clearwater Revival was born. The group's final single as the Golliwogs, "Porterville," was released in November 1967.
Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)
Clifford had received his draft notice the same year as John had, and he also managed to avoid Vietnam by joining the Coast Guard. By 1968, he too had finished his service, so the band could focus full-time on music. They began a grueling schedule of writing and rehearsing, and playing gigs in the San Francisco Bay area. Their first LP, , was released on May 28, 1968. The album included CCR staples like "Suzie Q" and "I Put a Spell On You." Both of those songs charted, with "Suzie Q" reaching the #11 spot by June. If you love this band, the remastered version of this LP contains two songs recorded live at The Fillmore, plus two additional songs not found on the original LP, including a great cover of "Before You Accuse Me." Creedence Clearwater Revival
With a solid LP under their belts, they started work on another in 1968 when they weren't on the road. If there was one thing this band excelled at, it was releasing singles. Maybe that was a holdover from their days as the Golliwogs. In any event, they released single-after-single. In January 1969, they released "Proud Mary", with the B-side "Born on the Bayou." In April, it was "Bad Moon Rising", with the B-side "Lodi." In July, out came "Green River," with "Commotion" on the flip side. All were hits, with "Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Green River" all reaching the number two spot on the Billboard charts in 1969. The albums "Bayou Country" and "Green River" were both released that year as well. You couldn't turn on the radio without hearing something by CCR.
In July 1969, they appeared at The Atlanta Pop Festival, sharing the bill on opening day with Booker T. & The M.G.'s, Canned Heat, Chicago and Grand Funk Railroad. They were on their way to Woodstock.
"Wish, I was back on the bayou
Rollin' with some Cajun Queen
Wishin' I were a fast freight train
Just a chooglin' on down to New Orleans..."
CCR Performing "Born On the Bayou" at Woodstock
CCR had been hanging backstage, waiting for Grateful Dead to finally put a bullet in their set. It was 12:30 a.m. when CCR finally took the stage. By that time, many festival goers had wandered back to their campsites to get some sleep. Their loss. Imagine waking to John growling out "Born on the Bayou," which is the song they opened with. Likely scared the heck out of a few mind-altered folks with that one.
They followed that up with "Green River." Hit after hit. The tempo was up and the band was tight. "Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)," "Commotion," "Bootleg," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Proud Mary." They finally slowed things down a bit and allowed for a little more improvisation on "I Put a Spell on You" and "The Night Time Is the Right Time." The last number was supposed to be "Keep on Chooglin," which included a harmonica solo that went on for more than nine minutes. But the crowd wanted more, and their encore, "Suzy Q," turned into one great jam. It was now almost 1:30 a.m.
John Fogerty thought their set was sub-par that night. Many in the audience disagreed, calling it one of the very best sets of the entire festival.
CCR Performing "Green River" at Woodstock
Life After Woodstock
As in 1969, CCR seemed to be everywhere in 1970. In January of that year, they released another two-sided single, "Travelin' Band" and "Who'll Stop the Rain." Bolstered by record sales, they embarked on their first tour of Europe in April 1970, where they performed "Up Around the Bend" and "Run Through the Jungle," two songs penned by John and recorded by the band just before they left on tour. Those songs appear on the band's fifth studio album, . Released in August 1970, the LP was their best yet, reaching the coveted number one spot on the Billboard album chart. This is a fantastic album, and the remastered version contains some great bonus material, including a live version of "Up Around the Bend" and a version of "Born On the Bayou" featuring Booker T. & The M.G.'s. Cosmo's Factory
But all was not well within the band. By late 1970, Tom Fogerty had had enough. Endless touring was only part of it, the larger issue being his brother John's control over everything the band did. John made decisions about their songs, their shows, their incomes, all without consulting the others. He was a perfectionist, and didn't want to change their particular sound by allowing the other member's more freedom. They others were all fine musicians, but John was clearly the star. Tom left, and for a time the band continued on as a trio. John finally relented and allowed Clifford and Cook to contribute to songs. They toured through 1971 and 1972, and released their final album as a band in April 1972. They formally disbanded in October 1972.
Legal and financial troubles were to haunt the band members for many years. Suits and counter-suits with Fantasy Records and Saul Zaentz, and among the band members themselves, consumed too much time and too much energy. Like many emerging artists of that era, Fogerty had signed away rights to his songs, and Fantasy licensed their use again and again for commercial gain. Unfortunately, Tom passed away in 1990, so he never saw the resolution of much of this civil action.
When Fantasy was finally sold to Concord Records in 2004, Concord finally honored the contractual promises that Zaentz had made to the guys decades before. They started paying the band a higher royalty rate on sales. They also gave John something worth more than anything; ownership of his early songs..
CCR "Run Through the Jungle"
John Fogerty's Guitars
Though John doesn't appear on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, he does appear at #72 on their list of the Top 100 Singers and #40 on their list of songwriters. That last accolade is one I think we can all agree on.
John still owns literally hundreds of guitars. Fogerty loved Gibson guitars, and one of the guitars that John used at Woodstock, at least for "Bad Moon Rising," was a Gibson Les Paul or "Black Beauty." He also had with him a fine Rickenbacker. See "Five Musical Facts" below for more on that one.
Five Musical Facts
- John Fogerty’s feeling that their set at Woodstock was not their best led to his refusal to allow producers to use film or audio of CCR's set. As a result, many folks forget that CCR was even there.
- Up to and including 1970, CCR had more success with the two-sided hit singles format than any other band. They also had five singles reach the number two position, but never had a single go to #1 on the Billboard chart.
- In 1993, Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
- Cook and Clifford reunited in 1995 as Creedence Clearwater Reunion, without John.
- For Christmas in 2016, John received the surprise of his life when his wife Julie presented him with the 1969 Rickenbacker 325 Sunburst guitar he played at Woodstock. He had parted ways with the guitar in 1973 or '74 after the demise of CCR, and never thought he would see it again.
John Fogerty was one of the artists confirmed to play Woodstock 50 at Watkins Glen on Friday, August 16th. Will that festival even get off the ground?
© 2019 Kaili Bisson