Jordan Strauss, Invision LOS ANGELES (AP) - Rush fans can relax. The band is…
- Posted on May 14th 2010 5:00PM by James Sullivan
"I could sing," Tom once said, "but John had a sound."
Performing as the Blue Velvets, then the Golliwogs, the group (with schoolmates Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums) came into its own in the late 1960s as Creedence Clearwater Revival. They took their name from a friend of Tom's called Credence Newball and a beer commercial that touted mountain spring water.
CCR cracked the charts in 1968 with covers by a pair of men called Hawkins -- Dale Hawkins' swamp-pop classic 'Suzie Q' and Screamin' Jay Hawkins' scarifying 'I Put a Spell on You.' But the band really broke out the following year, when it put three albums in the Top 10 stateside and pushed three original songs, including 'Proud Mary,' to No. 2 on the Billboard singles chart. (CCR still hold the dubious distinction of having the most US No. 2 hits -- five -- without ever reaching the No. 1 spot, though they did have a chart-topper -- 'Bad Moon Rising' -- in the UK.)
In the indulgent rock world of the time, Creedence stood out for its bluesy, workmanlike approach, making down-home music that prefigured Southern rock. "Even people from Louisiana thought we were from Louisiana," Clifford once said.
Hot as a pistol in 1969, CCR were a headliner at Woodstock, though few remember it today. Taking the stage at 3 a.m. after a lengthy Grateful Dead set, the group played to an audience in sleeping bags. A disappointed John Fogerty denied permission for the 'Woodstock' film and album to include Creedence footage. It was one in a string of questionable decisions he would make on the band's behalf.
The grueling pace and Fogerty's increasing dictatorship soon took their toll. Tom Fogerty quit in 1971, and Rolling Stone's Jon Landau called the subsequent 'Mardi Gras' album "the worst album I have ever heard from a major rock band." Meanwhile, the publisher of 'Good Golly Miss Molly' sued the band for plagiarism for the song 'Travelin' Band.'
Creedence broke up for good in late 1972, leaving John Fogerty owing eight more records to his label, Fantasy. Deeply unhappy with his financial situation (which included a failed tax-shelter arrangement), Fogerty refused to honor the rest of the Fantasy contract. David Geffen's Asylum Records agreed to buy him out for $1 million. In exchange, the singer relinquished his publishing rights to Fantasy -- a deal that would come back to haunt him.
Realizing he would have to pay Fantasy owner Saul Zaentz performance rights to play his own CCR compositions, Fogerty stopped singing them onstage. In 1985, recording for Warner Bros., he had a comeback hit with the album 'Centerfield.' However, the album's success was undercut by Zaentz, who sued for copyright infringement, claiming that Fogerty's hit song 'The Old Man Down the Road' plagiarized CCR's 'Run Through the Jungle.' Fogerty was being sued for copying his own song.
The courts ultimately decided in Fogerty's favor, though Zaentz still got a measure of satisfaction. Fogerty had to settle another suit out of court, a defamation charge for his thinly veiled attack 'Zanz Kant Danz,' a song about a thieving pig.
Not surprising, all the litigation and financial troubles tore out the heart of the band. When Tom Fogerty died of complications from AIDS, contracted from a blood transfusion, he had not been on speaking terms with his brother for years. When CCR were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, Cook and Clifford (who would soon tour together as Creedence Clearwater Revisited) were barred from the stage. Tom Fogerty's wife brought his ashes in an urn.
Inspired by a visit to Robert Johnson's grave, the surviving Fogerty began playing Creedence songs in concert again. Through the years, John Fogerty has donated plenty of money toward new headstones for pioneer bluesmen like Johnson. One of his own lesser-known CCR songs, 'Tombstone Shadow,' apparently used his own life as a resource, just like his heroes did: "Every time I get some good news," he growled, "there's a shadow on my back."