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Creedence Clearwater Revival

 This is the translation of the article about CCR  I wrote in the Finnish magazine
Folk & Country. I have made some very small changes to it. Since my native
language isnīt English you might find a lot of linguistical errors in it.

As you all know, the country music has taken a lot of impressions from the blacks blues music. When the whites country music and the blacks rhythm & blues got together, rock'n roll was born. Many rock musicians has got influences from the country music and thus the circle is complete.

One band who in a fascinating way combined all these elements was CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL.

Very few white singers have the ability of black singers, to sing with their whole spirit. One of the best is John C. Fogerty, the genius leader of CCR. John is an outstanding singer and instrumentalist. He is known to play at least the following instruments: guitar, banjo, dobro, steel guitar, keyboards, violin, mouth organ, saxophone, trumpet, electric bass and drums. He plays them all, except for the drums, very well. CCR again was the best rock band ever (a matter of opinion) and the best record seller (a fact) in the rock category.

BLUE VELVETS

The event that lead to the founding of CCR goes back to the autumn of 1957 when John Fogerty, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook met in El Cerrito High School. John was playing in a band and Doug and Stu in another. They decided to put their bands together. There was some disagreement about who should join who's band. John who was a self made pianist and Stu who had taken some piano lessons had kind of a duel in piano playing. As a result of this contest Doug and Stu joined Johns gang. So the band THE BLUE VELVETS was found. John bought a Sears & Roebuck- guitar with amplifier for 88 dollars and started to practise guitar playing. The practise was very time consuming and his school was badly neglected. "I donīt know how I made the 8:th grade. Some teachers must have been on my side" John has said. Next year the band was playing in the schools parties. Soon they became more popular than the schools football-team. Tom Fogerty was at that time singing in the band SPIDER WEBB & THE INSECTS. His version of Bobby Freeman's "Do you wanna dance" was rather popular, at least among the young girls.

TO THE RECORDING STUDIO

At the end of 1959 Tom joined The Blue Velvets. With the rights of an elder he added his name to the band. So it became TOMMY FOGERTY & THE BLUE VELVETS. The next summer John started to sing though Tom still was the leading vocalist. Tom picked up the rhythm guitar. Stu changed to bas and Doug was still hitting the drums. Three years of practise and small playing gigs then took them to the recording studio as the band for R&B singer James Powell. The same year (1963) they even made a single of their own. On the A-side was Toms and Johns song `Have You Ever Been Lonely'. John played piano on that track. Stu played rhythm guitar, Tom was singing and Doug he just kept on beating them drums. On the B-side was "Bonita". John is said to have played a remarkable solo on that track.

 JOHN & FANTASY

High school was finished and Doug and Stu went to San Jose College. It was located about 80 km away from their hometown. Tom started to work in an electrical company. John did what ever he could do. Finally he ended up as a shipping clerk in a small recording company in Berkeley. The name of that company was FANTASY. It was merely publishing jazz- and blues records. Soon John got involved with the recording sessions, and that was something he was interested in. He learned the studio techniques thoroughly, and eventually became even more skilful than the pros there.

The band got to play at parties, in clubs and bars. They earned about 50 $ per evening and as much beer as they could drink. `I think we were in for the beer' has John said. They played frequently in a place called Monkey's lnn. The harder they played the more the crowd loved them. But when the smoke was thick and fights very frequent, there was little pleasure in the work. The only pleasant thing back then was that the doorman turned his face away when John, Doug and Stu arrived. They were 19-years old and the age limit was 21!

THE GOLLIWOGS

In the spring of 1964 the boys saw a TV program "The anatomy of a hit". It told about how Vince Guaraldis song "Cast Your Fate to the Wind " became a hit. The recording company was no less than Fantasy. That gave the boys a kick. If Guaraldis got a contract with Fantasy, they should get it too, they thought. The bosses of Fantasy finally agreed to make a contract but with the condition that they would change the name of the band. Tom and John suggested The Visions. The bosses at Fantasy thought that since the musical centre of the world seemed to be in Liverpool because of the Beatles then the name should sound a little more English, like THE GOLLIWOGS (a rag doll with a black face). `We should have walked out then', Tom has said. The reason to such a comment was that the boys really were abused. They were dressed in colourful, weird looking cloths and awful hats. Then they were told to do songs sounding like the Beatles- and Rolling Stones-with such faked names as Rann Wild, Toby Green and T. Spicebush Swallowtail. In 1965, the first Golliwogs single `Don't TeII Me No Liesī/ `Little Girl' came out. The selling of that record was as poor as the quality of it.

The same year 3 more singles were issued. From these `Brown Eyed Girl' was special. First of all John made his debut as a singer, secondly an electric organ was introduced thirdly it was rather a success. There were some 10.000 copies sold. It also placed rather well on the local DJ: s Top 40-chart. This gave the boys some hope but the singles issued the next year dropped them down on ground again. John was mostly sad of the poor reception of " WaIk On The Water". In his mind it had that something. A couple of years later it brought them, in a new version, a gold record. John has said about the Golliwogs music: "...it was Ultra White Mickey Mouse-music". Stu has said: "That was a good lesson for us. Iīm glad that we were used as sandbags back then...It would have cost us much more later on".

The last Golliwogs record was "Porterville" /"CaII It Pretending". It was later also released under the name CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL. The A-side had already something of what would become the CCR-sound.

 THE RISE OF CCR

The year 1966 was very hard for the band. Douglas had to quit his studies for financial reasons. His only source of money was the music, and that was not enough. Stuart was still studying and Thomas was comfortable at his work. Then John and Doug had to do their army service. They managed, however, somehow to get themselves reserve service giving them totally 6 months of active service. The next year was then the year of decisions. They knew that they would have to become professionals in order to get further. All the other except John had difficulties in making up their mind. John knew that they could make it. His head was full of music. Tom kind of triggered of the situation. After 6 years of service he quit from the electric company. This inspired Doug and Stu. In June -67 John and Doug got out of the army. Stu and Doug rented a house about 25 km from Berkeley. As it wouldnīt have been enough that the house was coloured pink, it also had some fairy poems written on the post box. It was called THE SHIRE and was by the neighbours considered to be a resident for weird people. The house was their meeting place and workshop. The gigs took them to places like Roseville, Davis, Modesto, Turlock and LODI. They got just enough money to pay the oldest of their bills. By Christmas 1967 John & Co had got nowhere on their career.

At that time things were on the move at the West Coast of USA. The Flower Power people with their drugs, peace messages, ecological thinking and underground music were out and about. John knew their time had come. The name Golliwogs just didnīt do amongst groups like Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service.

One of the employees of Fantasy was Saul Zaents. Eventually he bought the company. While looking over the contracts and talking to the involved they decided to change the name of the Golliwogs. Mr. Zaents asked the Golliwogs members to come up with ten suggestions for a new name and he would make a list of ten suggestions. That was a hard task to do. On Christmas Eve 1967 John was on the way out of his living room. He was about to go to buy the last Christmas gifts. Somewhere between the living room and the door he was hit by the name CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL. That was the only name he took to Mr.Zaents. When he saw that name, he threw away his own list! From now on John was the leader. How come? Who knows? There has never been any explanation to the sudden change of leadership. Another matter to speculate about was the origin or meaning of the name. Some says that Creedence was the name of a friend, Clearwater was from a beer commercial and Revival means revival. Others say that Creedence means believing in something (hence Creed-believe) and Clearwater would be Johns point of view about the air and water pollution. Everybody agrees, of cause, on the Revival, because John has said that: "Revival was the most important thing. I meant is as a personal resurgence within ourselves... we really needed that" Now that they were pros they headed to San Francisco and got the opportunity to play in Bill Grahams FilImore West and in Avalon Ballroom.

TO THE TOP

CCR made a demo tape that they took to the DJ: s in radio stations. Some of them liked the stuff and played it occasionally on the radio. Before too long CCRīs version of "Susie Q" –arouse some interest. You can listen to it yourself as it was put on the record from the same master tape. Mr.Zaents noticed the success of the band and he gave them more or less free hands. When John learned this it was like an engine would have been started. He started to write and arrange in an unbelievable speed. They practised with the band for many hours each day and John wrote his songs generally in the nights. As he was married and had kids, this was not so good for the family life. He eventually recognised this and his song Wrote A Song For Everyone tells about this sad situation in his life.

Their first album was released in June 1968. The title of that album was simply the name of the band. They cut out the single `Susie Q Part I'/ `Part 2'. This became a hit in the Bay area and eventually got some attention also nation wide. The album was the 22:nd on the lists. By the end of the year it had already made a gold record.

Well, if California and USA got interested in this first album, the second one, `Bayou Country', awoke the rest of the world. I personally consider the single `Proud Mary/ `Born On The Bayou' to be the best single ever made by anyone! This album hit the lists in all list-keeping countries in the world. This was the beginning of a Legend.

ABOUT RECORDINGS

There were 11 singles released. From these at least 9 made a gold record. All their 7 albums made the platinum record. In those days one made a gold record when ones record had sold for over 1 million dollars and platinum when the record had sold 1 million copies or 5 million dollars. John had his strong feeling for music. He knew what he should write and he knew exactly what it should sound like. This fact, as much as it was the thing that made CCR, was the reason to their breaking up some years later. You see, when the band made a record the process was generally as follows: First of all John wrote and arranged everything. Then he had the band practise exactly according to his wishes for some weeks. Then they went to the studio. There they had to play exactly as he had told them to play. Then he came back and re-mixed and added sounds to the record. Contrary to believes he never changed any of the other member's playings. It is said that John could produce an album for about 2.000 dollar, whereas the price for other bands easy reached 50.000 dollars.

So, their first album was released in June -68. It consisted of some cover songs, four of John own songs and then `Portervilleī which is written by them all. This is exactly the same version as is on the Golliwogs record. This album seems to be somehow experimental, a search of their of style. John gets carried away with his solo playing. At this time he had not really understood that the solos are made for the song, not the contrary. By the next record he had realised it. Sad to say very few rock guitarists realises it at all.

Their next album `Bayou Country' was released in January 1969. The song `Proud Mary' moved John Fogerty to the front line of songwriters. This now classical rock song has been recorded by far over 100 artists! Bob Dylan classified it as the best song in 1969.

To be continued....sad to say I canīt promise you any dates. Sorry folks!