Rock & Roll Saturday – CCR

I was 14 years-old in 1968. Looking back it was a time of societal shift in America never before seen. Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In premiered on NBC, the Tet offensive launched in Viet Nam, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy are both murdered by an assassin’s bullet and Led Zeppelin played their first live performance at Surrey University. As Bob Dylan said — “The times, they are a changin‘…”

In the meantime a quartet of friends had been honing their own style of rock and roll for a decade in the small San Francisco Bay area community of El Cerrito.

Brothers John and Tom Fogerty,along with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, were on the cusp of fame and fortune. In the summer of 1968 they released their first self-titled album, Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Over the next four years CCR would bring a fusion of countryfied rock, folk and a musical picture of life in the deep south. They sang about the Mississippi Bayou, American patriotism, Vietnam and coming of age. Music was their mural and they painted in ways never before heard and maybe never since.

The band saw an upsurge in popularity in 1969 as they released three top ten albums, Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys. They performed at Woodstock and the Atlanta Pop Festival. Their Woodstock performance came at 3:00 in the morning and never made it to the documentary and subsequent album because John Fogerty believed their set was subpar. This period saw colossal hits by the group although surprisingly they never had a #1.

Technically those last two hits were released in January of 1970 on their Cosmo’s Factory album. Other charting hits from Cosmo’s included “Up Around the Bend (#4),” “Lookin’ Out My Back Door (#2),” “Long As I Can See the Light,(#2)” and a remake of the 1968 R&B hit, “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.”

In December of 1970 they released their sixth studio album, Pendulum, which included, Have You Ever Seen the Rain? (#8)

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and CCR began to unravel in 1971 with the departure of Tom Fogerty. His frustration with John and the direction of the band became unbearable in a very public way. The band talked about replacing Tom but never got around to it. The rest of the guys toured as a trio but never rose to the level of production again.

Their final studio album, Mardi Gras, was released in April of 1972 and included a remake of Ricky Nelson‘s, Hello Mary Lou. The album garnered the worst reviews of any of their previous works. Rolling Stone reviewer Jon Landau called it “the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band”.

Setting aside the poor reception of Mardi Gras and disharmony between bandmates, Creedence set out on a two-month, 20-date U.S. tour. Emotions ran high on tour and in October 1972 – less than six months after the tour ended – Fantasy Records and the band officially announced the disbanding of Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the truly great tragedies of rock that didn’t involve death.

Over the subsequent years, Fantasy Records would release compilations and live recordings of CCR music. The label made a small fortune. At one point Stu Cook — who holds a degree in business — claimed that because of poor judgment on Fogerty’s part, CCR had to abide by the worst record deal of any major American recording artist.

In 1985, 13 years after the CCR breakup, John Fogerty, experiencing some success with a solo career, released, “The Old Man Down the Road”. Immediately after the song climbed the charts, Fantasy Records sued Fogerty, because (according to Fantasy) “The Old Man Down The Road” shared the same chorus as “Run Through The Jungle”, a song from Fogerty’s days with Creedence Clearwater Revival years before. (Fogerty had relinquished copy and publishing rights of his Creedence songs to Zaentz and Fantasy, in exchange for release from his contractual obligations to same.)

In other words, John Fogerty sounded too much like John Fogerty, of which Fantasy Records felt they owned the sound. The court sided with Fogerty. Following the highly publicized trial John Fogerty countersued to recoup his legal fees. This ultimately ended up in the Supreme Court under the case of Fogerty vs. Fantasy. Ultimately Fogerty prevailed and was finally awarded a full reimbursement of his legal expenses.

In September 1990, Tom Fogerty died of an AIDS complication, which he contracted via a tainted blood transfusion he received while undergoing back surgery.

CCR was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. John Fogerty refused to perform with his surviving bandmates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. The pair were barred from the stage, while Fogerty played with an all-star band that included Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson. Tom Fogerty’s widow Tricia had expected a Creedence reunion and even brought the urn containing her husband’s ashes to the ceremony.

Through the years John Fogerty could not perform many of the CCR hits he wrote and co-wrote with his former bandmates. Fantasy Records owned all the rights to the CCR catalog and because of bad blood from times past kept a constant vigil on Fogerty and his solo performances. In 2004 Fantasy Records was sold to an investment group led by Norman Lear. They merged the label with Concord Records and became the Concord Music Group.

Shortly after, John Fogerty re-signed with Concord and reunited with his musical past.

John Fogerty performs during the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 2010 when his song Centerfield was honoured. Photograph by: Jim Mcisaac, Getty Images, Calgary Herald

In a July 2011 interview with the Calgary Herald, John Fogerty, for the first time in over 20 years, admitted that he would at least be willing to consider reuniting with Cook and Clifford. “Years ago, I looked at people and I was so full of some sort of emotion and I’d say, ‘Absolutely not!’ . . . . But I have to admit, people have asked me more recently, and even though I have no idea how such a series of events would come to pass, I can tell that there isn’t the bombast in my voice, in the denial, in the refusal. It’s more like, ‘Well, I dunno.’ Never say never is I guess is what people tell you. In this life, all kinds of strange things come to pass,” Fogerty said. “Realizing that it doesn’t really kick up a big firestorm of emotion, it kind of suggests that at least if someone started talking I’d sit still long enough to listen.

Wouldn’t that be something!

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