After more than three decades and a lot of seriously toxic water over the bridge, the great, ageless roots-rocker John Fogerty — singer, songwriter, lead guitarist and producer of Creedence Clearwater Revival — has returned to Fantasy Records. Yes, you read that correctly, and hell is still pretty toasty as far as I know.
Fogerty’s infamous relationship with the label, now part of the Concord Music Group, and in particular former owner Saul Zaentz, caused years of bitter disputes and lawsuits, making this one of the most unlikely and startling reunions in music industry history.
Creedence recorded exclusively for the Berkeley-based Fantasy, which was primarily a jazz label, and for a brief but very intense period from 1969 through 1971, Fogerty's outfit was the greatest rock 'n' roll band in America, generating nine Top 10 singles in a row ("Proud Mary," "Bad Moon Rising/Lodi," "Green River," "Down On the Corner/Fortunate Son," "Travelin' Band/Who'll Stop the Rain," "Up Around the Bend," "Lookin' Out My Back Door," "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," "Sweet Hitchhiker"), five multi-platinum albums (Bayou Country, Green River, Willy and the Poorboys, Cosmo's Factory, Pendulum), and some of the most timeless American music of the past 50 years.
And "timeless" is more than a cliche in this case: although recorded in the late '60s and early '70s with a lyrical undercurrent reflecting the social turmoil of the time with the Vietnam War at its core, Creedence's music has a first generation rock 'n' roll feel that derives from the original sound and excitement generated when R&B and country were first rammed together in the '50s.
While Creedence's music, lyrics and image speak of the Deep South of the mighty mythic Mississippi, Louisiana swamps, and voodoo magic, singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer John Fogerty, his brother rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty (who died of respiratory failure in 1990), bassist Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford, were actually from the blue collar East Bay town of El Cerrito, CA, and began playing together in junior high school in 1959.
They first recorded as the Blue Velvets, then as the Golliwogs without much success. Sometimes the band had to play live without microphones, which helped Fogerty develop his blistering blues shout (Howlin' Wolf) and rock 'n' roll scream (Little Richard).
Fogerty started writing songs in earnest while in the Army in the mid-'60s. When the band reunited in '67 after Fogerty's release, they were a seasoned, rock-solid unit that was confident enough to avoid trends and aim for the essence of rock 'n' roll. Their first hit was a swampy version of Dale Hawkins's "Susie Q" in '68, and the extended album version became a staple of the new free-form FM radio format. They were a 10-year overnight success.