Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Music of CCR

Creedence Clearwater Revival (commonly referred to by its initials CCR or simply Creedence) was an American rock band, which consisted of John Fogerty (vocals, guitar, harmonica, piano), Tom Fogerty (guitar, vocals, piano), Stu Cook (bass, vocals), and Doug Clifford (drums, percussion, vocals).

Though hailing from the Bay Area of California, the group was influenced by the swamp blues genre that came out of south Louisiana in the late 1950s and early to mid-1960s. CCR cultivated a Louisiana connection through its choice of song and album titles, such as "Born on the Bayou," Bayou Country, and Mardi Gras, as well as through the southern "good ol' boy" image projected by its members. Several of their songs also protest against the Vietnam War, such as "Who'll Stop the Rain", "Wrote a Song for Everyone", "Run Through the Jungle" and most notably "Fortunate Son".

Early years The band started out as The Blue Velvets, formed by John Fogerty, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook in El Cerrito, California in the late 1950s. They were an instrumental trio, however in 1959 they began backing Tom Fogerty, John's older brother, on fraternity house gigs and in the recording studio. In the middle of 1964, the band recorded two songs for Fantasy Records, a local label based in San Francisco at that time. They were attracted to the label because Fantasy had released a national hit by Vince Guaraldi, "Cast Your Fate To The Wind". Max Weiss, Fantasy's co-owner initially changed the group's name to The Visions, but when the record was released, in November 1964, Weiss re-named the group The Golliwogs, an apparent reference to a once-popular minstrel doll and racial caricature, the Golliwogg. Seven singles were released in the San Francisco Bay area but none received national attention. (In 1975 Fantasy released Pre-Creedence, a compilation album of recordings by The Golliwogs).

CCR is born
The year 1967 was a watershed for the band. First, the group almost broke up when the draft board came for both John Fogerty and Doug Clifford. However, Fogerty was able to enlist in the Army Reserve instead of the regular Army and Clifford did a short tenure in the United States Coast Guard Reserve. Both received medical discharges. The second major event of the year was when Saul Zaentz purchased Fantasy Records from Weiss. He offered the band the chance to record a full album, but only if they changed the group's name. Never having particularly liked the Golliwogs, the foursome readily agreed, and Zaentz enthusiastically agreed to their suggestion: Creedence Clearwater Revival. The band took its name from Credence Nuball, a friend of Tom Fogerty; "clearwater", a reference to the band's concern for ecology (from a beer commercial of the day); and "revival", which spoke to the four members' re-commitment to their band. Determined to make this opportunity a success, the band devoted themselves exclusively to its music, the four members quitting their day jobs and rehearsing and playing area clubs incessantly. By the time they went into the studio to record their self-titled debut LP, they were an incredibly tight and disciplined musical unit. The rootsy Creedence Clearwater Revival was somewhat out of step with the Top 40 music scene of 1968, which was then in the midst of Psychedelia and Bubblegum Pop. But the album struck a responsive note with the emerging underground pop culture press, which touted CCR as artists worth paying attention to. More importantly, AM radio programmers around the United States took note when a song from the LP, Suzie Q, started receiving favorable airplay in both the band's native Bay Area, as well as in Chicago on WLS radio, where listeners used to the blues of Chess Records and the R&B of Vee-Jay Records doubtless heard similarities with CCR. "Suzie Q" went on to be the first single by the band to crack the Top 40, falling just shy of the Top 10 at #11. It was also Creedence's only Top 40 hit that was not written by John Fogerty. After some eight years of making music together, the group was an "overnight success".

Listen to their songs.

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