Creedence Clearwater Revival runs a rock ‘n’ roll factory (1971)
By Lisa Robinson, Pop Scene Service
Unlike most rock groups that are top-heavy with managers, producers, and agents, Creedence Clearwater Revival has made the grade on their own. They don’t even have a booking agency or a manager, yet they are currently the most successful pop-rock group in the world, and the richest.
“We went through all that,” said Tom Fogarty, rhythm guitarist for the band. “Most of it was disastrous. Bookings, concerts, promotional material, press, fan club operations, business of almost every kind is handled by us directly with a small, hand-picked staff.”
“In fact,” added road manager Bruce Young, one of Creedence’s few employees, “John Fogarty, lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Creedence, with drummer Doug Clifford, bass player Stu Cook, and Tom Fogarty, all have a regular five-day week when they’re not on the road. But it’s casual. Everyone knows what has to be done and when. We all enjoy a leisurely pace between shows and concerts.”
A factory headquarters in Berkeley
So Creedence has made a regular business out of rocking and rolling. Their headquarters is an old warehouse in the nearby industrial district of Berkeley, known as “Cosmo’s Factory.”
Creedence Clearwater has furnished it to suit their needs: one section in the rear of the first floor is richly carpeted practice studio which is used every day; near the front door is a kitchen and a lounge area which is used for relaxing and meetings; a second floor mezzanine houses the business office; consisting of a conference room and pool table.
On the walls are dozens of framed gold singles and albums, posters, letters from fans, and photos of the group. On the grounds are a basketball court, ping-pong table, and a room where the group’s concert equipment is stored, and a four-ton truck to haul it around in.
Surrounded by industry, the factory’s neighbors include a conventional factory that makes dog’s toys and a warehouse that ships sleeping bags and camping equipment.
Some people, including many music critics, have accused Creedence of being a “factory” themselves, turning out hit after hit, all sounding very much alike.
“People call me a jukebox,” said John Fogarty, who writes and sings songs such as “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son,” “but I don’t mind, I consider that a compliment. Besides, I can put my own quarters in!”
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival (video)
Varied musical influences
“I like all music,” Fogarty continued. “I’m really into the roots of music. I know that country music isn’t just Johnny Cash, and that classical music isn’t Mason Williams. My main influence, my first influence, would be the Memphis Sun Records — that kind of thing. Carl Perkins, really, even though he only made two records that were heard on the West Coast. I studied each note and lived with that for ten years. Also, Howlin Wolf, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley.
“I guess I was right at the impressionable age when I heard all of that, and it sort of hit me at once. The other guys, it was pretty much the same thing, but to a lesser degree actually – it just took them a little longer to get to the point where they just: wanted to do only music. I’m not into the far-out jazz, although I like melodic jazz.”
With John Fogarty’s talent being obvious, the rest of the group has often been thought of merely as backup musicians, but recently Creedence expanded their roles so that they cannot be accused of being John Fogarty’s band anymore.
On some numbers, Tom Fogarty will play lead guitar so that John can take over at the keyboard. And they are all more involved with vocals now. On their newest album, “Pendulum,” bassist Stu even plays piano on one cut, string bass, recorder and solo vox on others. Tom also plays harmonica, Doug plays tambourine, vibes and maracas, and John’s keyboard work does add a new dimension.
The latest Creedence Clearwater Revival album
That new LP “Pendulum” took about three weeks to record and mix, which is about four times the amount of time it took them to record each one of their other albums. It is said that this album was more of a group effort, whereas in the past the group would go in, cut “live,” and then John would add the necessary extras.
John does admit, however, that he is interested in the idea of recording a solo LP. “I don’t want to play with any other group,” he said, “but my big dream now is to go in and make an album by myself, playing all the instruments.”
A half million dollars were racked up in advance orders for “Pendulum” even before it was recorded, and the album was certified by the R.I.A.A. (Recording Industry Association of America) as a gold record automatically upon its release.
The members of the group have a boyish enthusiasm about their music which prevents them from sounding as if they’re bragging. “Do you know that our new album had an advance order of 1,000,000 copies, and that Ampex had the highest advance order for tapes in history?” Stu said.
John added, “As we get more successful, we get freerer to do what we want. I really like the new LP now, but in a few weeks I’ll probably hate it!” he said, laughing.
Creedence has consistently headed the music charts in more than 41 countries for the past two and a half years, and this year received awards from Billboard magazine as “Top Album Artists of the Year” and “Top Group Albums.”
Success wasn’t overnight
Yet it took a long time for the band to make it. In 1959, they started out as the Blue Velvets, and were then the Four Winds, Visions, and Golliwogs, before deciding on Creedence Clearwater Revival, and attaining fame and fortune.
“The name happened because of the way I was feeling at the moment,” John recalls, “and also TV commercials sort of abstractly suggested it. One was a beer commercial showing a lot of clear water, and that sort of thing. But the one that got into my head was one for clear water — an anti-pollution sort of thing — and I was really struck by that. I had seen it several times before, but it all sort of fit together right then.”
When Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, they hit big with gold record after gold record, some of their hits have been “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Fortunate Son,” “Suzy Q,” “I Put a Spell on You,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Lodi,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Up Around the Bend.” “Long as I Can See the Light,” and “Who’ll Stop the Rain?” All of their six albums have sold mm a million, and their last “Green River,” “Willy and the Poor Boys,” “Cosmo’s Factory” and now Pendulum) have received platinum record awards for $5 million in retail sales.
“When we first started, everyone tried to discourage us and buy us out of the thing. Like my parents wanted me to go to law school,” said Stu Cook, “but now that’s all changed. . . because they’re all working for us!”