John Fogerty’s One Man Show: The Lone Star Of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Every group has different dynamics that help them navigate the music industry, but one crucial factor to consider when establishing a band is maintaining balance and doing whatever is necessary for success. However, balance is not always easy to achieve, particularly as a band climbs the ladder to fame.

Creedence Clearwater Revival is probably one of the most prominent examples of losing the harmony within the band despite all the achievements that carried them to the top. Their story illustrates how artistic differences between band members can escalate and lead to a breakup and legal disputes.

The band started its career with the efforts of John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook in 1959. Nearly a decade later, they became one of the most successful rock groups, with nearly every song and album they released entering the charts, going platinum, and receiving critical acclaim. So, what caused them to disband when they could have achieved a lot more? We need to go back all the way back to the beginning to elaborate on this question’s answer.

Creedence Clearwater Revival first stepped into the spotlight in 1968 with the release of their self-titled debut album. One of the tracks from the album, a cover song called ‘Susie Q,’ immediately attracted the attention of the audience and the critics, garnering a lot of positive feedback. The single entered the Top 40 and marked the beginning of the band’s bright journey as the only song not written by John Fogerty to enter the charts.

After this achievement, things only got better for them since they kept making their way into the lists for the next two years. The singles from their following four albums, including ‘Proud Mary,’ ‘Green River,’ and ‘Lookin’ Out My Back Door,’ preserved Revival’s success by consistently settling on number two in the charts. All of these pieces were created by Fogerty, which prompted tension and conflicts to occur within the team.

While they were steadily rising thanks to the lead singer’s productions, the rest of the members were not happy he was the only one with creative liberty. They felt unheard and ignored by John, who insisted on writing the songs for the band’s all projects and getting the rest to play them the way he wanted due to his disciplined and perfectionist attitude. Eventually, each member grew tired of this situation.

In 1971, Tom Fogerty was the first to leave the band because he did not want to be taken for granted anymore. While they briefly considered hiring a replacement, his bandmates decided to remain a trio. However, this new arrangement would soon become a solo act.

Tension and resentment continued to grow between the remaining members as Fogerty insisted on being the sole creator of the band’s songs. Meanwhile, Clifford and Cook wanted a share in the creative decisions. After heated moments and interactions, the vocalist could no longer resist his bandmates’ desires and offered a new deal with a more democratic approach.

According to his plan, each member would write and perform their own songs for the upcoming albums, which was not an efficient solution, as proven after the release of their last album, “Mardi Gras.” It is not certain whether Cook and Clifford expressed dissatisfaction before or after testing the idea, but they were ultimately unhappy with the arrangement.

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s final album became a critical failure despite reaching gold status because no matter how hard Cook and Clifford asked Fogerty to sing all of the songs to maintain the band’s widely-known sound, the lead singer refused to sing any music other than his own, causing an uneven tone to occur in their latest work. Thus, they received negative reviews from critics, which added to the fire and resulted in disbandment.

In a 1997 interview with a Swedish magazine, Pop, John Fogerty told the whole breakup process starting from the beginning. He explained why he did not want the other members to contribute to creating the album materials. According to the musician, when they intervened with the writing, the songs were not as good, and he only looked out for the band’s best interests by taking creative responsibilities.

The story from his perspective went as follows:

I was alone when I made that [CCR] music. I was alone when I made the arrangements; I was alone when I added background vocals, guitars, and some other stuff. I was alone when I produced and mixed the albums. The other guys showed up only for rehearsals and the days we made the actual recordings. For me, Creedence was like sitting on a time bomb. We’d had decent successes with our cover of ‘Susie Q’ and with the first album when we went into the studio to cut ‘Proud Mary.’ It was the first time we were in a real Hollywood studio, RCA’s Los Angeles studio, and the problems started immediately. The other guys in the band insisted on writing songs for the new album; they had opinions on the arrangements and wanted to sing. They went as far as adding background vocals to ‘Proud Mary,’ and it sounded awful. They used tambourines, and it sounded no better.”

He continued his narrative by elaborating on his thought process and the band’s success by saying:

“That’s when I understood I had a choice to make. At that point in time, we were just a one-hit wonder, and ‘Susie Q’ hadn’t really been that big a hit. Either this [the new album] would be a success, something really big, or we might as well start working at the car wash again. There was a big row. We went to an Italian restaurant, and I remember that I very clearly told the others that I, for one, didn’t want to go back to the car wash again. Now we had to make the best possible album, and it wasn’t important who did what as long as the result was the very best we could achieve. And, of course, I was the one who should do it. I don’t think the others really understood what I meant, but at least I could manage the situation the way I wanted. The result was eight million-selling double-sided singles in a row and six albums, who all went platinum. And Melody Maker had us as the best band in the world. That was after the Beatles split, but still. … And I was the one who had created all this. Despite that, I don’t think they understood what I was talking about. … They were obsessed with the idea of more control and more influence. So finally, the bomb exploded, and we never worked together again.”

After Creedence Clearwater Revival disbanded in 1972 due to all these conflicts, John Fogerty started lawsuits directed at his former bandmates and records company to revive the copyrights to his songs, which concluded to his advantage in early 2023. Now, the musician continues his career as a solo artist while Doug Clifford and Stu Cook perform under Creedence Clearwater Revisited without any hope of reunion for the long-gone band.