Creedence Clearwater Revival Biography

Although generally bracketed with the post-psychedelic wave of San Franciscan groups, Creedence Clearwater Revival boasted one of the region’s longest pedigrees. John Fogerty (28 May 1945, Berkeley, California, USA; lead guitar/vocals), Tom Fogerty (b. 9 November 1941, Berkeley, California, USA, d. 6 September 1990, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; rhythm guitar/vocals), Stu Cook (b. 25 April 1945, Oakland, California, USA; bass) and Doug Clifford (b. 24 April 1945, Palo Alto, California, USA; drums) began performing together in 1959 while attending high school. Initially known as the Blue Velvets, then Tommy Fogerty And The Blue Velvets, the quartet became a popular attraction in the Bay Area suburb of El Cerrito and as such completed several singles for the local independent Orchestra. In 1964 they auditioned for the more prestigious Fantasy Records, who signed them on the understanding that they change their name to the more topical Golliwogs to monopolize on the concurrent ‘British Invasion’. Between 1965 and 1967, the rechristened unit recorded seven singles, ranging from the Beatles -influenced ‘Don’t Tell Me No More Lies’ to the compulsive ‘Fight Fire’ and ‘Walk Upon The Water’, two superb garage band classics.

The quartet turned fully professional in December 1967 and in doing so became known as Creedence Clearwater Revival (Creedence for an acquaintance Credence Nuball and because of its connotations of integrity; Clearwater from a beer commercial and because of its environmental overtones; and Revival to signify a change in fortunes). Their debut album reflected a musical crossroads. Revamped Golliwogs tracks and new John Fogerty originals slotted alongside several rock ‘n’ roll standards, including ‘Suzie-Q’ and ‘I Put A Spell On You’, the former reaching number 11 in the US charts. Bayou Country, issued within a matter of months at the beginning of 1969, was a more substantial affair, establishing Fogerty as a perceptive composer, and the band as America’s consummate purveyors of late 60s pop. ‘Proud Mary’ reached the Top 10 in both the US and UK and in the process become the quartet’s first gold disc. More importantly, it introduced the mixture of Southern Creole styles, R&B and rockabilly through which the best of the band’s work was filtered.

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s second album release of 1969, Green River, consolidated their new-found status and contained two highly successful singles, ‘Green River’ and ‘Bad Moon Rising’, the latter of which topped the UK charts. The set confirmed Fogerty’s increasingly fertile lyricism which ranged from personal melancholia (‘Lodi’) to a plea for mutual understanding (‘Wrote A Song For Everyone’). This social perspective flourished on ‘Fortunate Son’, an acerbic attack on a privileged class sending others out to war, one of several highlights captured on the band’s third album release of 1969, Willy And The Poor Boys. By this point Creedence Clearwater Revival was indisputably America’s leading attraction, marrying commercial success with critical approbation. ‘Down On The Corner’, a euphoric tribute to popular music, became their fourth US Top 10 single and confirmed a transformation from gutsy bar band to international luminaries.

Creedence Clearwater Revival reached a commercial peak with July 1970’s Cosmo’s Factory. The album included three gold singles, ‘Travelin’ Band’, ‘Up Around The Bend’ and ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door’, as well as an elongated reading of the Tamla/ Motown Records classic ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’. The album defined the consummate Creedence Clearwater Revival sound: tight, economical and reliant on an implicit mutual understanding, and deservedly became the year’s bestselling set. However, relationships between the Fogerty brothers grew increasingly strained, reflected in the standard of the disappointing Pendulum. Although it featured their eighth gold single in ‘Have You Ever Seen The Rain’, the set lacked the overall intensity of its immediate predecessors, a sparkle only occasionally rekindled in ‘Pagan Baby’ and ‘Molina’.

Tom Fogerty left for a solo career in February 1971, but although the remaining members continued to work as a trio, the band had lost much of its impetus. Major tours of the USA, Europe, Australia and Japan did ensue, but a seventh collection, Mardi Gras, revealed an artistic impasse. Cook and Clifford were granted democratic rights, but their uninspired compositions only proved how much the band owed to John Fogerty’s vision. Creedence Clearwater Revival was officially disbanded in October 1972. It was a dispiriting close to one of the era’s most compulsive and successful acts, a combination rarely found.

The rhythm section followed low-key pursuits both independently and together, with Cook enjoying most success in the late 80s as a member of Southern Pacific. Their erstwhile leader began an erratic path dogged by legal and contractual disputes, although he deservedly re-emerged in 1985 with the American chart-topper Centrefield. Tom Fogerty left the music business in the early 80s to work in real estate, but died in 1990 from tuberculosis. In 1993, Creedence Clearwater Revival were inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, although the animosity between Fogerty, Clifford and Cook was clearly evident. The dispute flared up again in 1998 when Clifford and Cook began touring as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, with former Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and vocalist John Tristano included in the line-up. A live album was issued as John Fogerty attempted to stop Clifford and Cook from using the Creedence name.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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