John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook (all born 1945) met at senior high school in El Cerrito, California and began playing instrumentals and "juke box standards" together under the name The Blue Velvets. The trio also backed singer Tom Fogerty— John's older brother by three years—at live gigs and in the recording studio. By 1964, the band had signed to Fantasy Records, an independent jazz label based in San Francisco at the time.
Fantasy had released Cast Your Fate to the Wind, a national hit for jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi. The record's success was the subject of an NET TV special, which prompted budding songwriter John Fogerty to contact the label. For the band's first release, however, Fantasy co-owner Max Weiss renamed the group The Golliwogs (after the children's literary character, Golliwogg), apparently to cash in on a wave of popular British bands with similar names.
During this period, band roles underwent some changes. Stu Cook had gone from piano to bass guitar and Tom Fogerty became the band's rhythm guitarist. John Fogerty also began to write much of the band's material. Most notably, the young guitarist had taken over lead vocal duty. As Tom would later say, "I could sing, but John had a sound." Early success: 1967-68
The group had suffered a setback in 1966 when the draft board called up John Fogerty and Doug Clifford for military service. Fogerty managed to enlist in the Army Reserve instead of the regular Army while Clifford did a tenure in the United States Coast Guard Reserve.
In 1967, Saul Zaentz purchased Fantasy Records from Weiss and offered the band a chance to record a full-length album, but only if the group changed its name. Never having liked The Golliwogs, the foursome readily agreed. Zaentz and the band agreed to come up with ten suggestions each, but he enthusiastically agreed to their first: Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band took the three elements from, firstly, Tom Fogerty's friend Credence Newball, (to whose first name Credence they added an extra 'e', making it resemble a faith or creed); secondly, "clear water" from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and finally "revival", which spoke to the four members' renewed commitment to their band. (Rejected contenders for the band's name included 'Muddy Rabbit', 'Gossamer Wump,' and 'Creedence Nuball and the Ruby', but the latter was the start that led to their finalized name.)
By 1968, Fogerty and Clifford had been discharged from military service. All four members subsequently quit their jobs and began a heavy schedule of rehearsing and playing area clubs full-time. Unlike many other rock artists of the day, they (for the most part) eschewed drug use.
The resulting 1968 debut album Creedence Clearwater Revival struck a responsive note with the emerging underground pop culture press, which touted CCR as a band worthy of attention. More importantly, AM radio programmers around the United States took note when a song from the LP, "Suzie Q", received substantial airplay in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as on Chicago's WLS. Blues aficionados doubtless appreciated the similarities between CCR's tough style and R&B artists on the Chess and Vee-Jay labels.
A remake of a 1956 song by rockabilly singer Dale Hawkins, "Suzie Q" was the band's second single, and its first to crack the Top 40. Reaching #11 nationally, it would be Creedence's only Top 40 hit not written by John Fogerty. Two other singles from the debut were released: a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You" (which made it to #58) and "Porterville", written during John Fogerty's Army Reserve stint.
Peak success: 1969-70 While undertaking a steady string of live dates around the country to capitalize on their breakthrough, CCR also was hard at work on their second album Bayou Country at RCA Studios in Los Angeles. Released in January 1969 and becoming a #7 platinum hit, the record was the first in a string of hit albums and singles which continued uninterrupted for the next three years.
Bayou Country's seven songs were well-honed from Creedence's constant live playing. The album showed a distinct evolution in approach, much more simple and direct than the band's first release. The single "Proud Mary", backed with "Born On the Bayou", went to Number 2 on the national Billboard chart. It would eventually become the group's most-covered song, with some 100 cover versions by other artists to date, including a hit version in 1971 by Ike and Tina Turner. Bob Dylan named it his favorite single of 1969. The album also featured a blistering remake of the rock & roll classic "Good Golly Miss Molly" and the band's nine-minute live-show closer, "Keep On Chooglin' ".
Only weeks later, in March 1969, "Bad Moon Rising" backed with "Lodi" was released and peaked at #2 on the charts. The band's third album, Green River, followed in August and quickly went gold along with the single "Green River", which again reached #2 on the Billboard charts. The B-side of "Green River", "Commotion"—a one-chord two-step about the perils of city life—peaked at #30. The bar-band story of "Lodi" became a popular staple on then-emerging FM radio. The band's emphasis on remakes of their old favorites continued with "The Night Time Is the Right Time", which found its way into the band's live set as a crowd sing-along.
In 1969, Harry Shearer interviewed Cook and John Fogerty for the Pop Chronicles radio documentary.
Creedence continued to tour heavily including performances at the Atlanta Pop Festival and Woodstock. Their set was not included in the Woodstock film or its original soundtrack because John Fogerty felt the band's performance was subpar. (Several CCR tracks from the event were eventually included in the 1994 commemorative box set.) Stu Cook's view: "The performances are classic CCR and I'm still amazed by the number of people who don't even know we were one of the headliners at Woodstock '69." The band also complained that they had to take the stage at three in the morning because The Grateful Dead had jammed far past their scheduled set time. By the time Creedence began playing — "the hottest shot on Earth at that moment", said John Fogerty bitterly, nearly twenty years later — many in the audience had gone to sleep.
"Creedence Clearwater Revival, which disbanded in 1972, were progressive and anachronistic at the same time. An unapologetic throwback to the golden era of rock and roll, they broke ranks with their peers on the progressive, psychedelic San Francisco scene. Their approach was basic and uncompromising, holding true to the band members’ working-class origins. The term “roots rock” had not yet been invented when Creedence came along, but in a real way they defined it, drawing inspiration from the likes of Little Richard, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and the artisans of soul at Motown and Stax. In so doing, Creedence Clearwater Revival became the standard bearers and foremost celebrants of homegrown American music.” - from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's website.
Woodstock wasn't a cause for concern. Creedence was busy honing material for a fourth album, Willy and the Poor Boys, released in November 1969. "Down on the Corner", a good-time street-corner number, and the famously militant "Fortunate Son" climbed to #3 and #14, respectively, by year's end. The album was Creedence in its standard form, featuring Fogerty originals and two reworked Leadbelly covers, "Cotton Fields" and "Midnight Special". Both the latter songs also had been performed by actor Harry Dean Stanton in the movie Cool Hand Luke, suggesting a subtle non-conformist theme to an apparently tradition-oriented album.
1969 had been a remarkable chart year for the band: three Top Ten albums, four hit singles (charting at #2, #2, #2, and #3, respectively) with three additional charting B-sides. On November 16, 1969, they performed "Fortunate Son" and "Down on the Corner" on The Ed Sullivan Show.
Just after the new year, 1970, CCR released yet another new double-sided 45, "Travelin' Band"/"Who'll Stop the Rain". John Fogerty has said that the flip side was inspired by the band's experience at Woodstock. The speedy "Travelin' Band", however, bore enough similarities to "Good Golly, Miss Molly" to warrant a lawsuit by the song's publisher; it was eventually settled out of court. In the meantime, the single had topped out at #2. The band also recorded its January 31, 1970, live performance at the Coliseum in Oakland, California, which would later be marketed as a live album and television special. In February, the Creedence foursome was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, although only John Fogerty was interviewed in the accompanying article.
In April 1970, Creedence was set to begin its first European tour. To support the upcoming live dates, Fogerty came up with "Up Around the Bend", a good-time party rocker, and the brooding "Run Through the Jungle", about the burgeoning problem of societal violence in the United States. The single—written, recorded, and shipped in only a few days' time—went to #4 that spring, enjoying enthusiastic response from European live audiences and high commercial success in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
The band returned to Wally Heider's San Francisco studio in June to record what many consider the finest CCR album, Cosmo's Factory. The title was an in-joke about their various rehearsal facilities and factory work ethic over the years. (Drummer Doug Clifford's longtime nickname is "Cosmo", due to his keen interest in nature and all things cosmic.) The album contained the earlier Top 10 hits "Travelin' Band" and "Up Around the Bend" plus highly popular album tracks such as the opener "Ramble Tamble", an ambitious and snarling seven-minute cut about life in urban America with its "police on the corner, garbage on the sidewalk, actors in the White House."
Cosmo's was released in July 1970, along with yet another #2 national hit, "Lookin' Out My Back Door"/"Long As I Can See the Light". It was the band's fifth #2 single. Though they topped some international charts and local radio countdowns (such as WLS's, which rated three of their singles at #1), Creedence Clearwater Revival never had a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit. Their five #2 singles were exceeded only by Elvis Presley and Madonna with 6 each. CCR has the odd distinction of having the most #2 singles on the Billboard charts without ever having had a #1.
Other cuts on the "Cosmo's Factory" album included an incisive eleven-minute jam of the 1967 and 1968 R&B hit "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" ( which would become a minor hit when an edited version was released as a single in the 70s a few years after the group's breakup ) and a nearly note-for-note homage to Roy Orbison's "Ooby Dooby". John Fogerty's musical range clearly had expanded. He now wove in slide guitar, keyboards, saxophones, tape effects, and layered vocal harmonies—and pushed himself vocally more than ever on "Long As I Can See the Light". The album, eleven songs in all, was Creedence's best seller and went straight to #1 on the Billboard 200 album charts and #11 on Billboard's Soul Albums chart. Decline and breakup: Late 1970-72
The Cosmo's Factory sessions had seen the stirrings of tensions within the foursome as the incessant touring and heavy recording schedules took their toll. John had taken control of the group in its business matters and its artistic output. The situation began to grate on Tom, Stu, and Doug, who wanted more of a say in the band's workings. John resisted, feeling that a 'democratic' process would threaten their success. Other issues included John's decision at a 1970 Nebraska gig that the band would no longer give encores at its live shows.
Pendulum, released in December 1970, was another top seller, spawning a Top 10 hit with "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?". The album marked yet another shift in the band's approach: gone was the wall of sound of Creedence's previous three albums. The single's flip side, the ringing "Hey Tonight", was also a hit. Somewhat experimental was the closer track, "Rude Awakening #2", a bizarre and almost tuneless free-form instrumental in which the musicians seem to have thrown in every sound and effect they could imagine.
But even continued musical innovation and success could not resolve the differences between John and Tom Fogerty. During the recording of Pendulum Tom Fogerty, who had already quit the band several times in disgust but was always talked into returning, left Creedence Clearwater Revival permanently. His departure was made public in February 1971. The band members considered replacing Tom but never did, Fogerty saying on an Australian TV broadcast that no new member could endure being in Creedence.
In spring 1971, John Fogerty informed a startled Cook and Clifford the band would continue only by adopting a 'democratic' approach: each member would now write and sing his own material. Fogerty also would contribute only rhythm guitar to his bandmates' songs, a particularly hard slap in the face given their years of support for Fogerty's music. Cook and Clifford, who had wanted more of a voice in the band's music and business decisions, resisted this arrangement. Fogerty insisted they accept the new arrangement, or he would quit the band.
Despite the dissension, the CCR trio put its new work ethic to the test in the studio, releasing the Top 10 single "Sweet Hitch-Hiker" in July 1971, backed with Stu Cook's "Door to Door". The band toured both the U.S. and Europe that summer and autumn, with Cook's song a part of the live set. In spite of their continuing commercial success, however, relations among the three had become increasingly strained.
The band's final album, Mardi Gras, was released in April 1972, featuring songs written by Fogerty, Cook, and Clifford and a cover of "Hello Mary Lou" (a song Gene Pitney originally wrote for Ricky Nelson.) It received mostly poor, even savage reviews: Rolling Stone reviewer Jon Landau called it "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band".
The sales of Mardi Gras were weaker than those of the previous albums, although the album was not a total flop commercially. Mardi Gras peaked at #12, perhaps due more to the strength of the Creedence name than to the particular music on the record. This final release had the worst showings of any Creedence album and single since 1968. The 1971 hit single "Sweet Hitch-Hiker"/"Door to Door" was included on the album. Fogerty's "Someday Never Comes", backed with Clifford's "Tearin' Up the Country", also cracked the US Top 40.
By this point, Fogerty was not only at direct odds with his bandmates, but he had also come to see the group's relationship with Fantasy Records as onerous, feeling that label owner Zaentz had reneged on his promise to give the band a better contract. 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.
Despite the relatively poor reception of Mardi Gras and deteriorated inter-group relationships, the band immediately embarked upon a two-month, 20-date U.S. tour. Hecklers reportedly pelted the band with coins at the final stop of the tour on May 22 in Denver. Finally, on October 16, 1972 - less than six months later - Fantasy Records and the band officially announced the disbanding of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Creedence Clearwater Revival never reunited after the break up, although Cook and Clifford eventually started the band Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
In 1973, John began his solo career with The Blue Ridge Rangers, his one-man band collection of country and gospel songs. Under his old Creedence contract, however, Fogerty owed Fantasy eight more records. In the end, he simply refused to work for the label any longer. The impasse was resolved only when Asylum Records' David Geffen bought Fogerty's contract for $1,000,000. His next major hit was Centerfield, a chart-topping success in 1985. On tour in 1986, however, Fogerty suffered complaints over his steadfast refusal to play Creedence songs live and suffered with recurring vocal problems which he blamed on having to testify in court. Fogerty's explanation for not playing CCR songs was that he would have had to pay performance royalties to copyright holder Saul Zaentz—and that it was "too painful" to revisit the music of his past.
With the Centerfield album, Fogerty also found himself entangled in new, tit-for-tat lawsuits with Zaentz over the song "The Old Man Down the Road" which was, according to Zaentz, a blatant re-write of Fogerty's own 1970 Creedence hit "Run Through the Jungle". Since Fogerty had traded his rights to Creedence's songs in 1980 to cancel his remaining contractual obligations, Fantasy now owned the rights to "Run Through the Jungle" and sued Fogerty essentially for plagiarizing himself. While a jury ruled in Fogerty's favor, he did settle a defamation suit filed by Zaentz over the songs "Mr. Greed" and "Zanz Kant Danz". Fogerty was forced to edit the recording, changing the "Zanz" reference to "Vanz".
On February 19, 1987, at the Palomino Club in Los Angeles, Fogerty broke his self-imposed 1972 ban on performing his CCR hits, on an admonition from Bob Dylan and George Harrison (who both joined him onstage) that "if you don't, the whole world's gonna think 'Proud Mary' is Tina Turner's song." At a Fourth of July benefit for Vietnam veterans, Fogerty finally ran through the list of Creedence hits—beginning with "Born on the Bayou" and ending with "Proud Mary"—to an ecstatic audience. He retreated from music again in the late 1980s but returned in 1997 with the Grammy-winning Blue Moon Swamp. John Fogerty still tours frequently and plays CCR tunes alongside material from his newer albums. Tom Fogerty
Tom Fogerty released several solo albums, though none reached the success of CCR.
Tom's 1974 solo album Zephyr National was the last to feature the four original band members. A few of the songs sound very much in the Creedence style, particularly the aptly-titled "Joyful Resurrection". All four members did play on the song, but John recorded his part to the mix separately.
In September 1990, Tom Fogerty died of AIDS, which he contracted via blood transfusion during back surgery. John and Tom never resolved the bitter estrangement that followed their falling out in CCR. Doug Clifford rented a house in Scottsdale, Arizona, to be near Tom. Stu Cook visited often. Stu Cook and Doug Clifford
Junior high buddies Doug Clifford and Stu Cook continued to work together following the demise of CCR both as session players and members of the Don Harrison Band. They also founded Factory Productions, a mobile recording service in the Bay Area. Clifford released a solo record, Cosmo, in 1972. Cook produced artist Roky Erickson's The Evil One and was bassist with the popular country act Southern Pacific in the 80s.
Following a relatively lengthy period of musical inactivity, the two formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995 with several well-known musicians. Revisited toured globally performing the original band's classics. John Fogerty's 1997 injunction forced 'CCRev' to change to 'Cosmo's Factory', but the courts later ruled in Cook's and Clifford's favor.
After Creedence, Fantasy Records released several greatest-hits packages and curiosities such as 1975's Pre-Creedence, a compilation album of The Golliwogs' early recordings. Fantasy also released the highly successful Chronicle, Vol. 1, a collection of Creedence's twenty hit singles, in 1976. Several years later, the label released a live recording entitled The Royal Albert Hall Concert. Contrary to its title, the 1970 performance was recorded in Oakland, California, not at the Royal Albert Hall in London, England. Subsequent issues of the original 1981 album have been retitled simply The Concert.
The success of Creedence Clearwater Revival made Fantasy and Saul Zaentz a great deal of money. Indeed, Fantasy built a new headquarters building in 1971 at 2600 Tenth Street in Berkeley, California. Zaentz also used his wealth to produce a number of successful films including Best Picture Oscar winners One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, and The English Patient. In 2004, he sold Fantasy to Concord Records. As a goodwill gesture, Concord honored the unfulfilled contractual promises Fantasy made nearly forty years ago, finally paying the band a higher royalty rate on their sales.
One decision made by John Fogerty rankled his bandmates and would leave all of them without most of their hard-earned money and facing legal and financial problems for years. Without the other three band members' knowledge, Fogerty agreed to a tax shelter scheme proposed by Saul Zaentz and his lawyers in which most of the bandmembers' assets were transferred to Castle Bank of Nassau. Zaentz and his associates withdrew their assets before the bank eventually dissolved — along with the savings of the four CCR band members. A series of lawsuits began in 1978 and eventually ended with a California court awarding $8.6 million to the band members in April 1983. Despite this legal victory, very little of the money was recovered.
John Fogerty, seeing that Zaentz was no longer involved with the company, also signed a new contract with Concord/Fantasy. In 2005, the label released The Long Road Home, a collection of Creedence and Fogerty solo classics. His most recent album, Revival, came out on the Fantasy label in October, 2007.
The original Creedence lineup rarely reunited after their breakup, and never professionally. All four members jammed together at Tom Fogerty's wedding on October 19, 1980. John, Stu, and Doug played at their 20th El Cerrito high school reunion in 1983, but they performed as their original incarnation, The Blue Velvets. In the 1980s and 90s, new rounds of lawsuits between the band members, as well as against their former management, deepened their animosities. By the time Creedence Clearwater Revival 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.
Creedence Clearwater Revival's catalogue of songs has frequently been used or referenced in popular culture. In the 1998 HBO mini-series From the Earth to the Moon, Pete Conrad's and Alan Bean's moon landing is accompanied by "Up Around the Bend." If this had been source music rather than background music, it would have been an anachronism, as the song was not released until five months after the November 1969 Apollo 12 mission. The series also used the song "Bad Moon Rising." On an episode of The Simpsons ("Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington"), Homer Simpson responds to a request to perform CPR by singing some lyrics from "Bad Moon Rising". A similar joke was used on My Name Is Earl. A lawnmower race on an episode of King of the Hill is set to "Green River". Several episodes of Gilmore Girls include references to the band, including an argument between an unfaithful couple that ends with the complaint, "You ruined Creedence for me!" Cheers' character Lilith Sternin claimed that listening to "heavy doses of CCR" helped ward off depression over aging. Other series referencing Creedence include Married With Children, Stargate SG-1, Dexter, Supernatural, Las Vegas, "That '70s Show", Cold Case, and Alias.
In the first episode of Cold Case, Look Again the entire song, Have You Ever Seen the Rain was played at the end of the show.
Several Creedence songs are played in the film Dog Soldiers, which also goes by the alternate title Who'll Stop the Rain. "Bad Moon Rising" is featured prominently in the 1981 film An American Werewolf in London, while "Born on the Bayou" opened the 1988 film The Return of Swamp Thing. Apocalypse Now included a sequence in which a USO show breaks down into chaos to the strains of "Susie Q". Many other movies have used Creedence songs, including Forrest Gump, The Big Lebowski, Live Free or Die Hard, The Manchurian Candidate, Michael, My Fellow Americans, Mr. Woodcock, Evan Almighty, Wild Hogs, Where the Buffalo Roam, We Are Marshall, My Girl, Blade, The Waterboy, Tropic Thunder, Remember the Titans, Twilight Zone: The Movie, December Boys, Road House, "The Ballad of Jack and Rose", O Homem Que Copiava, Hard Target, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Born On The Fourth of July, "State of Play", Stop Loss, the trailer for Taking Woodstock and both the 1974 and 2005 versions of the film The Longest Yard.
Cover bands and other media
Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic of Nirvana were in a CCR cover band before starting Nirvana. ESPN football analyst Chris Berman gave former Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Andre Rison the nickname "Bad Moon Rison". One of the characters from Nick Hornby's book A Long Way Down claims to have the fatal disease "CCR," rather than reveal his true reasons for committing suicide. The Scottish football club Dundee United uses the song "Up Around The Bend" whenever they score at their home ground. In her song, titled "Him", Lily Allen says that Creedence Clearwater Revival is God's favourite band. Video games such as Guitar Hero World Tour, Battlefield Vietnam, Rock Band, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas include Creedence songs.