Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Retro-Rock
These days we look back on Creedence Clearwater Revival through the golden haze of nostalgia. We remember this seminal “roots rock” band for the surprising number of songs which were not only hits at the time, but have become evergreens since then – songs like “Proud Mary” (now a staple for Tina Turner), “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Down on the Corner.”
The band made a huge impact in the late 1960s, but had its origins a decade earlier, in 1959. The band originally called itself The Blue Velvets, and consisted of John Fogerty (who would become the chief songwriter) on guitar, Stu Cook on bass (although he started on piano), and Doug Clifford on drums. Later that year, in November, older brother Tom Fogerty joined as the group’s singer.
As Tommy Fogerty & the Blue Velvets the band became locally popular (in El Cerrito – a part of the San Francisco Bay area), and in 1961 and 1962 made three singles for “a local independent outlet of Orchestra,” according to Creedence fan Peter Koers. The singles were “Come on Baby” b/w “Oh My Love” (released October, 1961), “Have You Ever Been Lonely” b/w “Bonita” (November, 1961) and “Now You’re Not Mine” b/w “Yes You Did” (June, 1962). The second single was a local hit, and all three are now quite rare.
Originally the band was influenced by blues artists like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, and rock and rollers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Chuck Berry. The young John Fogerty was also inspired by Duane Eddy, Ray Charles and Booker T & the MGs.
But the band’s next incarnation was as a British-influenced band called The Golliwogs. John Fogerty was working in the Berkeley warehouse of Fantasy Records, and his band auditioned for the label. Fantasy, then still owned by the Weiss brothers, signed them, changed their name to something which sounded British, and pushed them to play UK-style beat music, since the British Invasion was then in high gear. At times the band was required to wear blond wigs in live performances.
Between 1964 and 1967, The Golliwogs released seven singles on Fantasy. They sounded like a combination of the Rolling Stones, the Beatles and the Kinks. (In 1975 all fourteen tracks were gathered on an LP, The Golliwogs (Pre-Creedence), by Fantasy.) The promo copy of their first single, “Don’t Tell Me No Lies,” (Fantasy 560, 1964) is now worth $75.
Tom Fogerty dominated the first releases, but in late 1965 John took over the vocals, and by 1967 he was the band’s leader and chief songwriter. The Golliwogs’ last record was “Porterville” b/w “Call It Pretending,” released in November, 1967. It had the now-realized and original sound that would soon identify Creedence Clearwater Revival.
That same year Saul Zaentz bought out the Weiss brothers and took over Fantasy. He encouraged the group to go fully professional under a name of their own choosing. Tom’s friend Creedence Nuball and a commercial about clearwater beer inspired their choice. In January, 1968, their last Golliwogs single was reissued, now credited to the Creedence Clearwater Revival.
In July, 1968, the first album, Creedence Clearwater Revival, was released on Fantasy. An extended version of Dale Hawkins’ classic, “Suzie Q,” was taken from the album and released as a single, reaching the Top Ten. Another track from that album, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You,” hit the charts twice in the following years.
Next January Bayou Country was released. It was notable for “Proud Mary,” which put the band on the map internationally, but it also had their take on the Little Richard classic, “Good Golly Miss Molly.” By August Fantasy had their third album out, Green River. Both the title track and “Bad Moon Rising” from that album went gold.
Amazingly, John Fogerty was now really cranking the songs out, and the fourth Creedence album, Willy and the Poorboys, was released at the end of October! It offered such gems as “Down On the Corner” and “Fortunate Son.” Three albums in one year made 1969 Creedence’s year.
But things were not going well within the band. Tom was unhappy with his younger brother’s dominance, and was threatening to quit – which he would do in February, 1971. The band was enjoying a major success, which included a European tour in 1970. There would be only three more studio albums, Cosmo’s Factory in the summer of 1970, Pendulum that following winter, and Mardi Gras in April, 1972. Cosmo’s Factory is regarded as the band’s most successful album, and included “Travelin’ Band,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Lookin’ Out My Back Door.” But by Pendulum the strains are starting to show. Tom, Stu and Doug were no longer happy as John’s backup band. Still, that album offered the strong “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Hey Tonight.”
After Tom’s departure the others continued as a trio, and a new single, “Sweet Hitch-Hiker,” made the charts. It was included in the final album, Mardi Gras, along with songs by Stu and Doug, performed by their authors.
On October 16, 1972, Fantasy Records announced the official demise of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Its component members were already embarked upon solo projects. (In 1974, after various solo projects and guest appearances, Stu and Doug joined Doug Sahm’s Sir Douglas Quintet – whose “She’s About A Mover” was a major hit a decade earlier – to make the Warner Bros. album, Groovers Paradise. In 1998 they released Creedence Clearwater Revisited.) Tom Fogerty released nine solo albums (mostly on Fantasy), while John Fogerty released six (the first two on Fantasy; the rest on Warner and Reprise).
And everyone goes on performing and recording their songs.