Although their music evoked the raw, gospel-tinged sound of the rural South, Doug Clifford, Stu Cook, and brothers Tom and John Fogerty actually hailed from El Cerrito, California, a small town near Berkeley. In 1959, while in junior high school, the boys formed a band they called The Blue Velvets and played their first gig at Portola Junior High. One job led to another and soon the band was playing all around the Bay Area. Their first real opportunity to record came when a local singer named James Powell approached them to back him on a song called "Beverly Angel". Although the hobby record didn't sell many copies, it did get some air play on the local radio station, KWBR. A couple of years later they recorded a handful of other songs at Bob DeSousa's Sierra Sound Laboratories in Berkeley, honing their skills and learning their craft.
In March, 1964, a local PBS station ran a program called Anatomy Of A Hit, about a small time record company called Fantasy Records. After seeing the show, an 18-year-old John Fogerty decided to approach Max Weiss at Fantasy about making some recordings. After listening to the band do a few instrumentals, Weiss invited them back to play some of their material that had lyrics and soon signed them to a recording contract. In November of '64 their first single, "Little Girl (Does Your Mamma Know?)" was ready, but to the band's surprise, Weiss had changed their name on the label to The Golliwogs in a effort to sound more modern. Tom Fogerty sang lead on that tune and on their next single, "Where You Been" with John harmonizing. For their third effort, "You Can't Be True", John sang lead, which gave the band a rougher, more soulful sound. John was featured again on their fourth effort, "Brown Eyed Girl", which became a regional hit. That song brought the group a lot more work, even opening for Sonny And Cher at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento. More local releases like "You Better Get It Before It Gets You" and "Fight Fire" followed. Unfortunately, as happened to many aspiring musicians in the mid-'60s, John was drafted in 1965. After serving in the Army Reserve for two years, John and the others decided to give music their full-time attention. In October, 1967, Saul Zaentz bought Fantasy Records and wanted to re-sign the band. They agreed, but took the opportunity to change their name. Tom was the one who suggested "Creedence", remembering a local apartment custodian named Credence Nuball. John thought of "Whiskey Rebellion", then "Whiskey Revival", but none of these sounded quite right. Then, on Christmas Eve, 1967, John saw a TV commercial for Olympia Beer, whose motto was "It's in the water." That was followed by a public service announcement for clean water. He immediately thought of "clear water." From there it wasn't much of a stretch to combine some of the suggested names into Creedence Clearwater Revival. The other three agreed it was better than The Golliwogs, and the new name stuck.
On January 5th, 1968, the band signed the new recording contract drawn up by Saul Zaentz without really understanding what they were agreeing to. It was a mistake they would regret for many years. They were to receive 10 percent on their net, not gross sales. Zaentz would own the copyright to all of their songs, and they were obligated to come up with 180 songs over seven years.
With John Fogerty now firmly at the helm as guitarist, singer, songwriter and producer, Creedence's first release was the neo-psychedelic reworking of Dale Hawkins' Rockabilly classic "Suzie Q", which became their first Billboard Top 40 hit, rising to #11 during a nine week run in the Fall of 1968. For the follow-up, the band released John's composition "Proud Mary", which quickly rose to #2 in early 1969 and was covered by thirty-five other artists that year. It has since become a music industry standard, played by nearly every bar band and wedding singer in America. John later admitted that he had never been to Mississippi when he wrote the song, nor had he been to Louisiana when he penned the B-side, "Born On The Bayou". With a giant hit record to their name, Creedence went from playing daytime college gigs to four consecutive nights at the Fillmore and an appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Their third release, "Bad Moon Rising" went to #2 in late June, with the flip side, "Lodi" charting at #78. "Green River" was issued in quick succession and also rose to second place on Billboard's Hot 100 in September.
From then on, the hits kept coming as the band churned out six albums of powerful, roots-oriented rock and roll between 1968 and 1970: "Creedence Clearwater Revival", "Bayou Country", "Green River", "Willie and the Poorboys", "Cosmo's Factory" and "Pendulum". Ten of Creedence's singles cracked the Top Ten during the period 1968-71, including "Commotion" (#30), "Down On The Corner" (#3), "Fortunate Son" (#14), "Travelin' Band" (#2), "Up Around The Bend" (#4), "Lookin' Out My Back Door" (#2), and "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" (#8).
Not everything went their way however. During the Woodstock concert in 1969, CCR didn't take the stage until three in the morning, following the Grateful Dead. After the show, they were so unhappy with their performance that they forbade the use of it in the Woodstock motion picture and anything promoting the movie. They didn't want their performance on the album either, and Fantasy Records sealed the deal by not agreeing on royalties, which made sure they were not included on the LP. That decision cost the band a small fortune in royalties.
By 1970, CCR had undeniably become the number one American rock and roll attraction. The man responsible for their exalted position was John Fogerty. In addition to writing the band's material and producing their records, John sang with a powerful, raw-edged voice that was the Creedence sound. The same genius responsible for Creedence's tremendous popularity, however, also contributed to their eventual demise. Tensions arose among the other group members as they vied for greater say in band decisions which had, until then, been made exclusively by John. An agreement for more democratic decision-making was reached, but came too late for Tom Fogarty. In February 1971, Tom, fed up with the dominance of his younger brother John, announced his departure from the band to work as a solo artist. The remaining group continued to work as a trio. The first single of the reorganized CCR, "Sweet Hitchhiker", came out that Summer and rose to #6. On their seventh and last studio album, "Mardi Gras", Stu Cook and Doug Clifford each wrote a third of the album's songs with John Fogerty providing the rest. The disc reached #12 on the US album chart, mostly because of the band's reputation rather than the content. The group's major tour of the U.S., Europe, Australia and Japan began in July and met with a reasonably good reception, but the dissention in the band continued to grow. The last show that CCR would ever play came on May 22, 1972 in Denver, Colorado. In October 1972, John had had enough and Creedence Clearwater Revival was officially disbanded.
Tom Fogerty continued his solo career without major commercial success. He initially participated in an informal group which included guitarist Jerry Garcia and organist Merle Saunders, before forming a new band, called Ruby, around Randy Oda (guitar/keyboards), Anthony Davis (bass) and Bobby Cochran (drums). The group recorded three albums, the last of which was preceded by Tom's final solo set, "Deal It Out". Tom moved to Flagstaff, Arizona during the mid 1980s. He died of AIDS on September 6th, 1990.
In 1972, John Fogerty began a solo project in which he recorded all the instruments and vocals under the pseudonym "Blue Ridge Rangers", with the material comprised of Country and Gospel. It provided two hit singles in 1973: remakes of Hank Williams' "Jambalaya", which reached #16 in America and Otis Williams And The Charms' Doo Wop hit, "Hearts of Stone", which rose to #37.
Before the year was out, John had become upset about many aspects of his affiliation with Fantasy Records. He charged that the company hadn't promoted his solo album properly and had other objections about matters such as distribution and royalties. He demanded a release from his contract, but Fantasy had the rights for eight more albums from him. He refused to record new material and things remained unsolved until David Geffen and Asylum Records worked out a reported $1 million deal with Fantasy allowing Fogerty to record on Asylum with Fantasy retaining overseas rights while Asylum had US and Canadian rights. That did not void other legal battles, including one Fogerty and his old band mates eventually filed against their accounting firm, claiming it had not properly protected their investments.
Fogerty then went back into the studios and turned out a new solo album, "John Fogerty", that was a critically acclaimed work but a commercial failure. Among its tracks were such classic songs as "Rockin' All Over The World" and "Almost Saturday Night". However, the psychological trauma of continued legal skirmishing caught up with Fogerty and his efforts to assemble new material for a follow-up album were so far below his standards that Asylum cautioned against releasing them. The prospective third album,"Hoodoo", was never issued. Fogerty decided it would be best to wait until his legal problems were resolved before trying to pick up his career full-tilt again. It turned out to be a long wait, a hiatus that took almost a decade. In 1984, Fogerty began working up tracks for his comeback album, issued by Warner Brothers at the beginning of 1985. The album proved a sensation with both critics and record buyers. It provided three hit singles, "The Old Man Down The Road" (#10), "Center Field" (#44) and "Rock and Roll Girls" (#20), while the album itself topped the Billboard Hot 200 chart and went Double Platinum, selling over 2 million copies. The LP also included the hard-driving rocker "Mr. Greed" and the experimental "Zantz Kan't Danz" which seemed to be personal attacks against Saul Zaentz, head of Fantasy Records. Zaentz responded with a $142 million lawsuit claiming he had been slandered in "Centerfield" and in the statements Fogerty had made in interviews. Fantasy also filed another suit claiming it was entitled to profits from the single "The Old Man Down The Road", stating the piece plagiarised a song Fogerty wrote for Creedence, "Run Through The Jungle". In 1993 Fogerty emerged victorious, even recouping his attorney's fees.
In September 1986, Fogerty launched a second Warner Brothers album, "Eye Of The Zombie", which was not received well by critics and had lukewarm chart success despite a Grammy nomination for Best Male Rock Vocal in 1987. He also set out on his first US tour in 14 years, but steadfastly refused to include any Creedence songs in the set list. In the late '80s, Fogerty maintained a lower profile. The highlight of the era was his performance at a concert for Vietnam veterans in 1987, in which he did play Creedence songs on stage for the first time since 1972.
In a clear, public showing of their animosity for each other, John Fogerty refused to play with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford when CCR was inducted into Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Instead, he chose to perform with the house band and his former band mates were left out of the live show completely. In later years he would explain that he told Rock Hall representatives: "At the end, when everybody's on stage, jamming, if we all happen to be on stage, that's fine. I'm just not going to stand on a stage with those people, three in a row, play our songs and be presented as a band, particularly because these guys just sold their rights in that band to my worst enemy. I also made it very clear that if I didn't play at all, that was fine too."
Fogerty made a strong return to the music scene in 1997 with a release of his fifth solo album, "Blue Moon Swamp", which won Best Rock Album at the 40th Grammy Awards in 1998. The track "Blueboy" was nominated for Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. The album was supported by a tour of the U.S. and Scandinavia, along with several appearances in the media. He followed that with an album called "Premonition", where he performed 'live' versions of his old CCR hits.
The rhythm section of the group, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, followed pursuits independently and together in The Don Harrison Band, Southern Pacific and The Sir Douglas Quintet. In 1995, they comprised a band called Creedence Clearwater Revisited. With three additional musicians, Elliot Easton, Steve Gunner and John Tristao, they toured the world and performed the songs of Creedence Clearwater Revival over Fogerty's strenuous objections. John's 1997 injunction forced Revisited to change to Cosmo's Factory, but the courts later ruled in Cook's and Clifford's favor.
In September, 2004 John Fogerty released "Deja Vu All Over Again", his first new album in seven years. It peaked at #23 on the Billboard Hot 200 chart, #9 in Finland and #19 in Denmark. After Saul Zaentz sold his interest in the record company, John almost immediately signed a new contract with Concord / Fantasy Records and in 2005 the label released "The Long Road Home", a collection of both Creedence hits and Fogerty solo songs. The album gained good reviews and peaked at #13 on the Billboard 200. Another LP, "Revival", came out on the Fantasy label in October, 2007, before his follow-up album "Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again" was issued by Verve Forecast Records in 2009. In 2010, Fogerty's song "Centerfield" was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.
Chances of the remaining members of CCR ever reuniting appear slim at best. In a July 2011 interview with The Calgary Herald, John Fogerty 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." When asked about a potential reunion again in October 2011, Fogerty replied: "I'm saying it's possible, yeah. I think the call would maybe have to come from outside the realm. Somebody would have to get me to look at things in a fresh way." However, Cook and Clifford both emphatically stated in the February 2012 edition of Uncut Magazine that they have no interest in a CCR reunion. "Leopards don't change their spots. This is just an image-polishing exercise by John. My phone certainly hasn't rung," Cook said. Clifford added, "It might have been a nice idea 20 years ago, but it's too late."
In April, 2012, John Fogerty announced an Autumn release for his latest album, "Wrote a Song for Everyone", which features contributions from Bob Seger, The Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson and Miranda Lambert. In April, 2014, the song "Fortunate Son" was inducted into the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. December, 2014 had CCC back in the news again when another round of litigation was launched by Cook and Clifford against Fogerty over use of the band's name. In March of the following year, John announced that he would finally issue his autobiography, Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music, on October 6th, and that he would continue his world tour, 1969, which was slated to run from May 2nd to August 9th. Fogerty also responded to Cook and Clifford's lawsuit by launching one of his own in Mid-July, 2015, claiming they have not paid him for the use of his songs, touring and merchandise since 2011. Despite the flurry of lawsuits, drummer Doug Clifford said that he has no bad feelings towards John Fogerty, saying "I don't hate the guy. I love the guy. I just don't like the way he operates."
Saul Zaentz died on January 3rd, 2014 in San Francisco, California at the age of 92. John Fogerty noted his death on his Facebook page by posting the music video for his song "Vanz Kant Danz".
In early August, 2015, John Fogerty announced that he would be an advisor during the upcoming season of the music competition show, The Voice, scheduled to begin on September 21st. In 2016, he was also slated for an eight-show Las Vegas residency at The Venetian Theatre as well as being booked for several shows across the U.S and Canada. Doug Clifford and Stu Cook were also heavily booked across America with Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
Be sure to read Gary James' interview with Doug Clifford