by Craig Werner
Originally published in GOLDMINE #443, July 18, 1997
Webpublished here by author's permission
Although they would not make the national charts until 1968, the
Fogertys, Clifford and Cook began their recording career in 1964. Tom Fogerty had gotten a
job as a packing and shipping clerk at Berkeley-based Fantasy Records, best known for its
jazz releases. In 1963, a nationally televised documentary had focused on the labels
success in making the Vince Guaraldi Trios light jazz classic 'Cast Your Fate to the
Wind' a popular hit. Tom succeeded in getting the group an audition with Fantasy which
released 'Don't Tell Me No Lies,' sung by Tom, under the Golliwogs name in November.
Neither their debut nor the 1965 follow-ups 'Where You Been' and 'You Can't Be True,'
attracted much attention outside the Bay Area. The first indication that the Golliwogs
might finally break out of the cycle of local bars and clubs came when 'Brown Eyed
Girl, released on Fantasy's new teen-oriented Scorpio imprint, sold 10,000 copies in
the regional market.
But before they had a chance to capitalize on the success, Fogerty and
Clifford were drafted. In 1966, the American public had no yet begun to worry much about
Vietnam. The domestic economy was booming; the anti-war movement was limited to a
relatively small group of activists portrayed in the media as an un-American lunatic
fringe. In public President Lyndon Johnson down-played the extent of American involvement
while in private he told advisors: "I don't think its worth fighting for, I
don't think that we can get out. Its just the biggest damn mistake I ever saw. This
is a terrible thing that we're getting ready to do."
Even though Fogerty was "able to finagle my way into a reserve
unit," he shared the GIs knowledge of how sharply the reality differed from its
"It was actually at the height of the war so all the rules were
changing," he recalls. "There were National Guard guys whose units got shipped
over to Vietnam. It was amazing. Things got real altered, but luckily for me, I
didnt have to go overseas or serve three years in the hard-core Army."
The fact that Johnson attempted to hide the escalation by refusing to
call up reserve units -which in effect shifted the burden of the fighting to draftees who
were more likely to be from black, rural and working-class background- simply reflects how
confused the experience of Vietnam was for everyone who came anywhere close to it.
In 1967 when Fogerty finished serving his six months' active duty as
Ft. Bragg, Ft. Knox and Ft. Lee, the "Summer of Love" was establishing San
Francisco as the center of a counterculture based in large part on its opposition to what
was beginning to be seen more widely as a corrupt and futile war. Like Jimi Hendrix, who
served in the Armys elite "Screaming Eagles" parachute unit in the early
'60s, Fogerty never confused hatred for the war with hostility to the draftees who found
themselves fighting it. He appreciates the intense response his music received from the
'grunts' -"you werent really a vet until after you got back," Fogerty
notes- who served in Vietnam.
Although numerous CCR songs have been used in soundtracks for movies
on Vietnam and at least a half dozen were adopted by the anti-war movement, Fogerty wrote
only two of them with Vietnam specifically in mind: The blistering "Fortunate
Son" and the meditative "Who'll Stop the Rain." But theres no
question that CCR's music played a much broader role in the musical culture of Vietnam.
Marsh places "Fortunate Son" alongside "Don't Look Now" and "Bad
Moon Rising" on his list of the top 15 protest songs of the 1960s; "Who'll Stop
the Rain" was used as the title of the movie version of Robert Stones classic Vietnam
novel Dog Soldiers; "Run Through the Jungle" appears on the soundtrack of the
film adaptation of Ron Kovacs memoir Born on the Fourth of July.
Fogerty finds it interesting that "Run Through the Jungle"
is almost always heard as a song about Vietnam.
"It definitely got adopted by the guys in-country," he says.
"But it was really my remark about American society, the metaphor being society as a
jungle. When I sang "two hundred million guns are loaded" I was talking about
the ease with which guns are purchased in America. And it is a jungle."'
"It's even worse now. To me it's a sad thing. 'Satan cries take
aim.' We're all killing each other. That part of it was an anti-gun statement."
Fogerty pauses to consider his words carefully. "You may think thats a paradox
because I love to go hunting. I enjoy the ownership of guns. Guns have a history and a
lore like guitars and cars and even women," he says with a laugh.
But he quickly turns serious when he asserts that "I'm not
confused. I don't need an AK-47 to go deer hunting. Its pretty clear that if you
have something like that, you want to kill people. I think its respectable to waste
a lot of time with an old hunting rifle or an old Colt six-shooter. That's cool because
its a kind of American history and lore, But I don't think any true gun freak would
mind being regulated." Fogerty speaks with passion when he says, "I think
its the nut cases that are bothered by that. Charlton Heston scares the shit out of
me. A lot of the NRA gays are hunters, but the NEA itself hasn't done the country any good
with its. endorsements of Teflon bullets, which were only meant to go through armored
plate and kill policemen. The NRAs just had it all wrong."
During the Vietnam era, garage bands playing for racially-mixed
audiences on military bases back home found they could get by mixing in Creedence jams
with some Chicago blues and the sorts of R&B standards that began to appear more
frequently in the performances of the newly renamed Creedence Clearwater Revival.
There are competing versions of how the band's name was put together.
Everyone agrees that "Revival" was chosen to symbolize the band's new direction.
But at different times Creedence has been attributed to either the bands belief in
themselves or the name of Tom Fogerty's friend Creedence Nuball. Similarly, some have said
"Clearwater" came from a commercial praising a beer's "sparkling clear
waters" despite Johns 1969 statement that it indicated "something deep,
true and pure through which the light always shines."
Fogerty remembers the period leading up to the release of the
groups first album as a period of self-definition. After "Porterville,"
which despite a strong lyric falls has a somewhat generic blues rock feel, failed to
attract much attention, he set about creating a more distinctive sound.
"I wanted the band to sound mysterious, to have its own
definition," he remembers. "So I decided to mess around with 'Suzie Q', which
was a cool rock and roll song by Dale Hawkins. I kind of did the same thing with 'I Put a
Spell on You,' Those songs took us to another place than where we'd been for ten
years." When a demo version of 'Suzie Q' began to receive extensive airplay to the
Bay Area, Fantasy decided to re-record an extended version of the song, which was released
as both sides of CCRs first hit single (#11).
The groups debut album Creedence Clearwater Revival (#52, 1968)
reflected Fogertys interest in moving beyond a straight rock and roll sound.
Alongside "I Put a Spell On You," which reached #58 as the follow-up to
"Suzie Q," the album places several Fogerty originals ("The Working
Man," "Get Down Woman," "Walk on the Water") that would have
sounded at home on an album by blues rockers Canned Heat or the Paul Butterfield Band. A
cover of Wilson Picketts "Ninety-Nine and a Half" provides evidence of the
bands continuing attempts to find that "little shuffle." Later CCR and
Fogerty albums included versions of Jackie Wilsons "Lonely Teardrops" and
the Motown classic "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." Despite some nice moments
in the extended guitar breaks on "Grapevine," the relatively static rhythms made
it clear Marvin Gaye and Gladys Knight had nothing to worry about.
The liner notes to Creedence Clearwater Revival provided a peculiar,
and somewhat lukewarm, introduction. Written by Rolling Stone consulting editor Ralph J.
Gleason, a leading jazz critic who had enthusiastically embraced rock 'n' roll, the notes
present a panoramic overview of San Francisco's emerging scene. Praising area groups as
"the dominant force in a popular music which is the most universal expression of
attitudes and ideas we've ever seen," Gleason divided San Francisco groups into three
echelons, the top one headed by the Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and
the Holding Company, and Moby Grape. According to Gleason, the bands performed in venues
divided into "three concentric circles," descending from the gaudy heights of
the major ballrooms in small clubs like the Lions Share, Deno-Carlo and the New
Creedence, who Gleason gets around to naming only in the final
paragraph of the lengthy essay, had spent most of its existence playing in spots Gleason
would have placed somewhere between circles eight and 14. Belatedly getting around to the
business at hand, Gleason closes with a tepid endorsement of CCR as a band "which
gives every indication...of keeping the strength of San Francisco sound
"It was nice of him to mention our name in the very last
sentence. On our own record," Fogerty says with a lingering touch of exasperation.
"The whole rest of the thing went to declaring San Francisco the center of the
universe. Airplane, Dead, Moby Grape, Quicksilver Messenger Service. In future years
everyone will know the San Francisco sound permeated the world, one of the greatest
influences, Creedence Clearwater Revival is a fine example of the third generation."
Fogerty breaks from his professor's voice. "What?? We'd been there when those guys
were off in Texas or someplace. So it kind of pissed us off."
"San Francisco sound, great. You mean like Peter Wheat and the
Breadmen? San Francisco sound? You mean like We Five," Fogerty names two of the
numerous groups active in the Bay Area long before the Summer of Love. "It was all
sort of a concoction. I have to say I looked at it with a bit of a jaundiced eye. We knew
that many of those people came to San Francisco later. I thought the whole myth, the
mythology of the San Francisco sound, was a concoction, almost like a Chamber of Commerce
Creedence had relatively little contact with Gleasons "first echelon"
bands: "The Grateful Dead were always a little off from our circle. They did things
differently. And the Airplane, at least in those days, gave off his vibe, this attitude
like Creedence somehow didnt fit into those circles. It was very real. I could never
put my finger on what it was, but we were considered outsiders in our own town."
Once CCR records began to appear, their peculiar outsider status
didnt keep them from advancing into the top circle of bay Area venues. In May 1968,
as "Suzie Q" began to appear on the radio, the group made its Avalon
Ballroom debut on a bill with bluesman Taj Mahal; in July they played the Fillmore West
along with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. In September, with Suzie Q" rising
on the national charts, they played the Fillmore West three more times. In early 1969,
they were back at the Fillmore West on bills with Fleetwood Mac, then in its Peter
Green-era blues incarnation, and Jethro Tull.
Fogerty emphasizes Creedence admired and developed friendships with
some San Francisco-based bands. He expresses a special admiration and fondness for
"Carlos and the guys in the band were up and coming at the same
time. Carlos was a smoking guitar player and the band was hot. They were doing something
quite different from everyone else. They were relaxed and genuine, really nice people.
That was fun. I was meeting guys with a dream in their eyes, guys who were going