John Fogerty, left, and John Mellencamp
performed together for a number of shows
By STEVE SEYMOUR
The four times I've seen John Fogerty stand out from the dozens of great concerts I've witnessed over the years.
I'd first heard his recordings of "Suzie Q." and "I Put A Spell On You" on the radio in the fall of 1968 when he fronted Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Fogerty perfected the southern sounds of the Louisiana bayou on those two cover songs and thereafter on an incredible string of hits.
The breakthrough single, "Proud Mary" became the group's signature song and one of my favorites almost from the first time I heard it.
"Bad Moon Rising," "Green River" and "Down On The Corner" appeared in rapid succession in 1969 on the Fantasy label.
Not just the group's leader, Fogerty composed, produced and arranged the songs in addition to playing lead guitar and singing. He was accompanied by his brother Tom on rhythm guitar, Stu Cook on bass and Doug Clifford on drums.
More hits like "Travelin' Band," "Up Around the Bend" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door" followed in 1970. "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and "Sweet Hitch-Hiker" were Top Ten hits in 1971, but CCR broke up in 1972 before I had a chance to see them in concert.
Fogerty went solo that year, issuing his "Blue Ridge Rangers" album. A self-titled long-player appeared in 1975, but except for a solitary single, Fogerty fell silent for a decade. He emerged with the magnificent "Centerfield" LP in 1985 which contained "The Old Man Down the Road."
The lackluster "Eye of the Zombie" came out a year later and Fogerty went into another extended period of inactivity.
Finally, I got to see Fogerty perform on Labor Day, Sept. 2, 1995 during the Concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at Cleveland Municipal Stadium. Fogerty, who played a black Les Paul guitar, was introduced by Johnny Cash. With backing by Booker T. & the MG's, Fogerty tore through the classics "Born On The Bayou" and "Fortunate Son." Near the end of the program he returned to perform "In The Midnight Hour" with Sam Moore.
I loved seeing Fogerty perform, even if was just a few minutes.
The next time I saw Fogerty was Tuesday, May 27, 1997 at Chicago's House of Blues, a small venue by comparison. The guitarist and singer was promoting his new "Blue Moon Swamp" album with a show on the eve of his 52nd birthday.
Where 60,000 attended the Cleveland concert, the Chicago crowd numbered in the hundreds and my wife Sue and I even found a place to sit. On that evening, just the 6th show of the tour, we were treated to a setlist comprising 28 songs, including Creedence and solo material.
Fogerty began with "Born On The Bayou," a traditional opener; then played a string of Creedence gems, including "Green River," "Lodi" and "Lookin' Out My Back Door." From the new album he debuted "Bring It On Down To Jellyroll," "Southern Streamline," "A Hundred And Ten In The Shade," "Joy Of My Life," "Swamp River Days," "Hot Rod Heart," "Blueboy" and "Walking In A Hurricane."
The new songs had a definite Creedence flavor to them and were received enthusiastically by the audience.
A surprise to me, Fogerty also played the traditional number "Workin' On A Building" from his first solo LP.
Opening act the Fairfield Four returned to the stage to provide backing vocals for "The Midnight Special." Fogerty played his baseball bat-shaped guitar during "Centerfield," the title track from his first comeback album.
Near the end of the program, Fogerty brought out the black Les Paul he used at the Hall of Fame Concert for "I Heard It Through The Grapevine," "Bad Moon Rising" and "Fortunate Son."
he encore was "Proud Mary" and "Travelin' Band."
By the time we saw Fogerty again, he was touring behind another new album, this time "Deja Vu (All Over Again)." The memorable show took place on July 4, 2005 at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant, also home to Central Michigan University where I went to school in the early 1970s.
In fact, Fogerty was touring in tandem with fellow roots-rocker John Mellencamp. Sue and I secured seats near the stage for the Independence Day program, sitting amongst members of Mellencamp's fan organization called Club Cherry Bomb.
Fogerty took to the stage first, opening with "Travelin' Band," the number he ended his Chicago concert with eight years before. The veteran rocker performed 14 Creedence classics, plus a handful of solo hits, including "Deja Vu (All Over Again)." A powerful anti-war statement, the song was released as the country's military response in Iraq and Afghanistan was growing. "Did that voice inside you say I've seen this all before," Fogerty sang, comparing current events with the Vietnam War era.
A few songs into his set, Mellencamp called Fogerty back on stage. Seated next to one another, the two rockers performed Fogerty's "Green River," trading vocals as they went along. They did the same with Mellencamp's "Scarecrow."
By the time we saw Fogerty for a fourth time at Milwaukee's Riverside Ballroom on Nov. 19, 2009, we almost knew what to expect. Once again our favorite swamp rocker was touring with a new album, rumored at first to be called "Return of the Blue Ridge Rangers." Instead, it was given the clumsy title "The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again."
Still, Fogerty was in fine form and delivered 16 Creedence classics, six solo tracks and four numbers from the new album.
The new numbers comprised "When Will I Be Loved," written by Phil Everly; "Paradise," composed by John Prine; "Back Home Again," penned by John Denver; and "Garden Party," by Rick Nelson.
Fogerty delved into the Creedence catalog for this show, playing "Cotton Fields," "Ramble Tamble," "Keep On Chooglin'" and "Night Time Is The Right Time."
He even played his seldom-heard solo chestnut, "Comin' Down The Road," now giving title to a long-form DVD showcasing a concert he gave at London's Royal Albert Hall on June 24, 2008.
Fittingly, both the video program and Milwaukee show ended with "Proud Mary," the swamp rock classic and concert favorite which launched Fogerty's hit-filled career more than four decades ago.