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In '69: Fogerty talks hits and misses with NorthernLife.ca

1969. It was the year astronauts first stepped on the moon, and of Woodstock, flower children and the Vietnam war.
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Watch John Fogerty at the Sudbury Arena starting at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17. Supplied photo.
1969. It was the year astronauts first stepped on the moon, and of Woodstock, flower children and the Vietnam war.

It was also the year John Fogerty and his roots rock band, Creedance Clearwater Revival (CCR), released three albums — Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys.

In a recent phone interview with NorthernLife.ca to promote his Nov. 17 Sudbury show, Los-Angeles-based Fogerty said the band's prolific 1969 output was really because of his fear of becoming a one-hit wonder.

The year before, they'd seen success with the song “Suzie Q” from their self-titled debut album. He said he took an honest look at his band, which then was with a small label, and didn't have a manager or publicist.

“We're kind of out here all by ourselves, and I remember thinking, 'OK, well then I'm just going to have to do it with music,'” 69-year-old Fogerty said. “And so that's really what I set out to do.”
He said he still remembers clearly the circumstances that led to him writing the hit song “Proud Mary.”

Fogerty, then 24 years old, said he came home one day, and found a letter containing his honourable discharge from the army reserves. Elated, he sat down with his guitar, and within an hour he'd written “Proud Mary.”

“I knew at the time — right there, sitting in my chair, even though I was the only person in the whole universe that knew of this song — it was a really good song, far better than anything I'd ever even dreamed of before,” he said.

“I felt in my heart quite sincerely that this was a classic.”

Fogerty turned out to be right, and CCR became a smash hit band. It was a heady time.

“When you first hear your record on the radio — wow,” he said.

“On the first album, there were two songs that were really good — 'Suzie Q' and 'I Put a Spell On You.' I didn't write those songs. On the next album, the best songs were the songs I wrote, rather than the cover songs.”

The happy times didn't last long, though, with CCR's acrimonious split in 1972, and an ongoing dispute between Fogerty and Fantasy Records, which retained the rights — and most of the royalties — to the band's songs.

His brother and former CCR bandmate Tom Fogerty died of AIDS in 1990, at a time when the two weren't speaking.

Fogerty found it hard to work with this ongoing personal and legal strife, sometimes going a decade between recordings, and refusing for many years to perform CCR's songs.

That changed in 2004, when Fantasy Records was sold, ending a decades-old estrangement between Fogerty and the label.

Fogerty said his issues with the the label haven't been resolved, although he's perhaps paid more fairly these days. What's really changed is him, he said, crediting this to his second wife, Julie Kramer, who he married in 1991.

“Through a long process of love and confidence and sharing and trust, I've become happy,” he said. “I don't sit around and worry about all that garbage anymore. I'm wise enough to realize it gets me nowhere.”

Now in his golden years, Fogerty plans to bring the audiences on his upcoming Canadian tour back to those happy days in 1969 when he was on a song-writing spree and put CCR in music's history books.

With his “1969” tour, he said he wants them to “get a sense of the volatility, the chaos, the noise, and of the upheaval, culturally and musically and even spiritually that was going on during that time.”

Tickets to Fogerty's Sudbury concert, which starts at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 17 at Sudbury Arena, cost between $24 and $75.50, depending on seating. Visit greatersudbury.ca or phone 705-671-3000.


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