Creedence Clearwater Revival (often abbreviated CCR) was an American rock and roll band who gained popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s with a string of successful songs from multiple albums released in 1968, 1969 and 1970.
The group consisted of singer, lead guitarist, and primary writer John Fogerty, rhythm guitarist and brother of John Tom Fogerty, bass player Stu Cook, and drummer Doug Clifford. Their musical style encompassed rock and roll and swamp rock genres.
CCR's music is still a staple of American and worldwide radio airplay and often figures in various media.
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."
A more positive event occurred in 1967 when 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 Creedence Nuball, a friend of Tom Fogerty; "clear water", from a TV commercial for Olympia beer; and revival, which spoke to the four members' renewed commitment to their band. (Other contenders were Muddy Rabbit, Gossamer Wump, and Creedence Nuball and the Ruby.)
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.
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.
"Suzie Q", the band's remake of a 1956 hit for rockabilly singer Dale Hawkins, went on to be the band's first single to crack the Top 40. It just missed the Top Ten at #11 and was Creedence's only top 40 hit not written by John Fogerty. Other singles included a cover of Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell On You" and "Porterville", written during John Fogerty's Army Reserve stint.
..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 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 Little Richard's "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.
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 Fogerty felt the band's performance was sub-par. (Several CCR tracks from the event were included in the 1994 commemorative box set.) 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 Fogerty—many in the audience had gone to sleep.
Woodstock didn't matter. Creedence was busy perfecting 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 classic form, featuring Fogerty originals and two reworked Leadbelly covers, "Cotton Fields" and "Midnight Special".
The success of Willy and its single was the final touch on an amazing year for a remarkable band: no less than four hit singles and three full-length, top-selling albums. Few, if any, artists in 1969—or indeed in any year—could match CCR for stamina, creative output, and commercial success. CCR may well have had twice their actual success had their double-sided singles been released separately instead.
Just after the new year, 1970, CCR released yet another new double-sided 45, "Travelin' Band"/"Who'll Stop the Rain". The flip side was inspired, as John Fogerty tells it, by the band's experience at Woodstock. The speedy "Travelin' Band", however, bore enough similarities to Little Richard's "Good Golly, Miss Molly" to warrant a lawsuit by the song's publisher that 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 become a well-known live album and television special. By February, the unstoppable Creedence 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 broody "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, ensuring 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 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 hit, "Lookin' Out My Back Door"/"Long As I Can See the Light". The cuts included an incisive eleven-minute jam of the 1967 and 1968 R&B hit "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" 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.
By October 1970, Creedence Clearwater Revival had amassed five #2 Billboard Hot 100 singles, more than any act before or since that failed to top the Hot 100. CCR had a different sort of success on powerhouse radio station WLS, which rated three of their singles at #1 - "Bad Moon Rising" on 9 June 1969, "Up Around The Bend" on 25 May 1970, and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" on 14-21 September 1970 - but curiously none at #2. The band had Number One singles in many countries and had released four Top Ten albums in 18 months.
One decision made by John Fogerty as business manager for the band rankled his bandmates and would leave all of the band members without most of their hard-earned money and facing legal and financial hassles for years. Without the other three band member's knowledge, Fogerty agreed to a tax shelter scheme proposed by Saul Zaentz and his lawyers in which most of CCR band member's assets were moved into the Castle Bank of Nassau. Zaentz and his associates withdrew their assets before the bank eventually dissolved - along with monies of the four CCR band members. A series of lawsuits to recover the lost money began in 1978 and eventually ended with a California court awarding 8.6 million to the band members in April 1983. Very little of the money was actually recovered by the band members despite this legal victory.
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. Production was dry and tight, even to the point of sounding restrained. 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 instrumental in which the band seemed 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.
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. Bewildered by the cold reception of what Fogerty thought the other two had wanted, he insisted they accept his terms or he would quit the band.
Nevertheless, 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 between the three had become increasingly strained.
The band's final album, Mardi Gras, was released in April 1972, featuring for the first - and only - time songs written by Fogerty, Cook, and Clifford. It received mostly poor (even savage) reviews and suffered comparatively weak sales. The 1971 hit single "Sweet Hitch-Hiker"/"Door to Door") was included on the album, but the only other single, Fogerty's "Someday Never Comes", backed with Clifford's "Tearin' Up the Country", failed to crack even the US Top 20. With uneven songwriting, arranging, and production, the album sounds disjointed - the music as if by three different, unrelated bands. Not surprisingly, only the three Fogerty-penned songs exhibit the classic CCR sound. It was the worst showing of any Creedence single and album since 1968.
Mardi Gras peaked at #12, perhaps mostly due to the exemplary strength of the Creedence name alone, rather than the specific music on that album.
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. Stu 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 poor reception of Mardi Gras and deteriorated inter-group relationships, the band immediately embarked upon a two-month, 20-date U.S. tour. But less than six months later, on October 16, 1972, Fantasy Records and the band officially announced the disbanding of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
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", with lyrics "...Zanz can't dance but he'll steal your money...", and was forced to edit the recording, changing "Zanz" 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'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.
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.
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.
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 latest album, Revival, came out on the Fantasy label in October, 2007.
Even in the immediate years after breaking up, Creedence's stature as one of the great American rock bands was secure. The music went on to influence entire genres such as heartland rock, country rock, alt-country, and even punk and heavy metal musicians revere the band. Decades later, CCR's music remains in heavy rotation on oldies and classic rock radio stations. Fogerty's songs, considered classics of the rock form, have been covered by multiple artists, and many artists express both admiration and envy over Creedence's mastery of the two-and-a-half minute hit single. "Fortunate Son" in particular has become a universal anthem against war, class privilege, and jingoism. Creedence songs frequently appear in films and on television, and indeed the band continues to attract young fans born long after the band split up.
Even so, the surviving members resist all suggestion that they reunite as a group. There have been "unofficial" reunion performances by the band, however. All four members jammed together at Tom Fogerty's wedding on October 19, 1980. John, Stu, and Doug performed 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 John, Saul Zaentz, and Stu and Doug unfortunately deepened their post-1972 animosities.
Creedence Clearwater Revival was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 on the first ballot. Tom Fogerty's widow, Tricia, expecting a Creedence reunion, brought the urn containing his ashes for the ceremony. Tom's son, Jeff, a professional musician, was also on hand to take his father's place as rhythm guitarist for the traditional post-awards live set. John, however, not only refused to perform with fellow bandmates Stu and Doug, but also had them barred from the stage while he played with an all-star band that included Bruce Springsteen and Robbie Robertson.