'I outlived those sons of bitches!': In Clearwater, John Fogerty relives history while reclaiming his swamp rock anthems (2024)

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Photo by Josh Bradley

John Fogerty plays The Sound in Clearwater, Florida on July 29, 2023.

John Fogerty has a way of making things come full circle. And it goes past how he finally acquired the publishing rights to his Creedence Clearwater Revival songs last January, after spending most of his life fighting for them.

Before performing “Who’ll Stop The Rain” last Saturday night at Coachman Park’s new outdoor venue The Sound, the 78-year-old was handed a Rickenbacker 325, and all of the memories came pouring back in waves.

Fogerty bought the Rick in the first week of 1969, wrote a good chunk of CCR’s catalog on it, and even played it at Woodstock. Then, after the band split in 1972, he felt his career was in the toilet, and ended up giving the guitar to a kid who asked very nicely for one of his well-used six-strings.

“Then, a couple years ago, my sweet wife Julie went out into the belly of America, you might say,” Fogerty continued. “She started beating on bushes, and she found my guitar. She wrapped it and put it under the Christmas tree.” Since then, nary a show goes by where the axe—nicknamed “Acme”—isn’t put to use at least once.

Even if Mrs. Fogerty hadn’t gone out of her way to reunite her husband with his six-stringed pride and joy, the presence of immediate family members would still return to being a pertinent part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee’s travelin’ show.

For the first portion of Fogerty’s storied career, his brother Tom—who died of AIDS in 1990, caused by a tainted blood transfusion—played rhythm guitar with him in CCR. These days, Shane and Tyler Fogerty are the extra Fogertys onstage, mainly sticking to rhythm guitar, but occasionally being given a solo section when Dad didn’t feel like doing two things at once.

Their presence wasn’t minute, either. The boys’ psychedelic rock sextet Hearty Har was granted an opening set on Fogerty’s current tour. The band—with hooks as catchy as CCR before it, and plenty of guitar models to toy around with—got through 35 minutes of death metal howls (“Boogie Man”), an instrumental funk-slash-psychedelic jam (“Canyon of the Banshee”), and even a cover of The Sonics’ “Psycho.”

After a video featuring the man of the hour talking about how he owns his songs again, John Fogerty, clad in one of his trademark, plaid shirts and blue jeans, and wielding a black Les Paul, quietly made his way towards the very back end of centerstage, and ripped into “Bad Moon Rising” early. He even took the liberty of using one of the titular portions of the chorus to sing the famously misheard “there’s a bathroom on the right” line, which I promise you was not a misinterpretation on my end.

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Photo by Josh Bradley

John Fogerty plays The Sound in Clearwater, Florida on July 29, 2023.

Following the first of many axe-changes throughout the 85-minute set—switching his black Les Paul for a gold one— Fogerty made his way to the front to share guitar work with his boys for “Up Around The Bend,” just to gain full control on “Green River.”

He would do the misheard lyrics joke again on the ever-perky “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” changing “tambourines and elephants” to “tangerines and Elvis,” just after getting through the guitar section without a pick, which he dropped a nanosecond beforehand.

See, ol’ Fogey is not someone you would think is pushing 80 years old. Though a handful of high notes aren’t as well-held as they used to be, his vocal range is still better than some people half his age. Every song except for one—“Rock and Roll Girls,” which no matter how old or good you are, is hard to sing—was performed in its original respective key, and excluding his autograph being sold at the merchandise table for $300, there was nothing unnecessarily standoffish about the night.

Perhaps the only sign of Fogerty’s age was the fact that his gigs have been slowly shrinking in size over the last few years. But in lieu of his relatively large setlists (his 2013 show at the Straz Center had close to 30 songs), “Fight Fire,” a super deep cut by The Golliwogs—the band that eventually became CCR—was dusted off, and later came CCR deep cut “Effigy.” Neither song had been played regularly on tour until this year, so sacrificing a longer night is a small price to pay to witness something that many longtime Fogerty devotees who have to miss this tour probably won’t get to.

After jamming and trading solos with his sons during the six-minute psychedelic jam that was “Keep On Chooglin’,” Fogerty was handed an acoustic guitar for the first verse of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?,” which saw both sides of the crowd sing the “I know” part in his place on the second verse. “Down on the Corner” still made folks want to give a nickel—or a dollar, adjusted for inflation—to Willy and the Poor Boys, and with the chorus’ harmonies heavily turned down, your music major buddy with perfect pitch couldn’t help but harmonize a little louder.

And as for main set closer “Fortunate Son?” Let’s just say that if Fogerty were a hair more cynical, he probably would have only played it across the pond this year. Like with Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” you can find the anti-Vietnam War anthem on the same, ultra-patriotic Fourth Of July playlist as “America, f*ck Yeah,” expertly curated by your weird neighbor in an American flag Speedo.

Before heading into his two-song encore of “Centerfield”—on which Fogerty literally played a baseball bat guitar—and a triumphant, horned-up “Proud Mary,” the crew brought out a table, a bottle of champagne, and a drinking glass for one last hurrah for Fogerty getting his songs back. Yes, spending a whole night being braggadocious about your songs can give off a weird taste. But when they have been held hostage by record executives for most of your life, and you’re close to 80 years old, that’s a defining full circle event to say the least. “I outlived those sons of bitches!” He called out.

You sure did, John. And may you outlive us all, too.

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'I outlived those sons of bitches!': In Clearwater, John Fogerty relives history while reclaiming his swamp rock anthems (2024)

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