September 27, 2013 at 1:20 am #1656
All he ever wanted to do was Write a Song for Everyone: Grammy Museum Event – September 26th 2013
Hi Friends! I just got home from one of the most historically important musical events that I have ever witnessed in my whole, entire life. I was lucky to have won a ticket to a private Grammy Museum Event which launched the exhibit honoring one of rock’s legendary artists; John Fogerty.
My good friends Dan & Carol attended with me, and we recognized some wonderful people in attendance as well, such as Ms New Orleans, Mr Dan Banning and all of John’s family was there to support him. This was a small sized venue; a lot of the attendees tonight belong to the Grammy Museum President’s Circle and they support music in schools. The president of the Grammy Museum was the man to interview John Fogerty and he asked some very excellent questions in regards to John’s musical career, how he approaches song genesis, and there was some long discussions regarding the legal challenges that John had to face many years ago.
The Grammy Museum is in the scholarly process of obtaining a comprehensive oral history on John Fogerty – from the master himself – in order to preserve this information for future generations. The origins of the interview was conducted at the Fogerty household weeks before this evening; which I think primed John into telling us all that he could in regards to his extraordinary career and incomparable songwriting talent. Most of John’s treasures from his musical career were collected from his private residence in order to build up his museum exhibit. Some of this stuff never saw the light of day! Like the Creedence contract that was the basis of so much grief for the Creedence boys was on display – and it was remarkably clean and intact! I would have thought that John would have spit on it, or wrinkled it up into a tight, little ball with the amount of frustration this piece of paper caused him. But it was clean and perfect; like somebody pressed it into an old heavy album over the years. John’s Grammy award was on display along with lots of his famous flannel shirts. Bruce Springsteen called John, “The father of the flannel shirt” which I thought was sorta funny!
We toured the Museum Exhibit first; and there was SO MUCH AUTHENTIC JOHN FOGERTY STUFF IN THERE that I didn’t know still existed. The first items that grabbed my attention were the outfits John & Julie Fogerty wore to the Grammy’s. Carol and I were so amazed how tiny Julie’s dress and shoes were! There were a whole lot of flannel shirts and jeans worn by John displayed in the glass cases! John is not the tallest man you’d ever meet, but he sure keeps himself in wonderful shape! We saw the cowboy hat that John wore on the second Blue Ridge Rangers album. There were countless old posters from the CCR days; backstage passes were preserved, old 33 1/3 albums, old sheet music from Creedence was on display. There was the old dobro from the cover of the Green River album. There was much more neat stuff on display there and it would be well worth your time to go and see it for yourself! I even remember seeing John’s handwritten lyrics to such masters as “Proud Mary,” “Old Man Down the Road” and other songs that slipped out from my memory banks already.
I wish I’d a brought my notepad along with me, but I forgot to pack it – so all of this information was scribbled down on the back of a Starbuck’s receipt that I had in my purse, and some of this story landed on the printed program itself. I wanted to keep a clear memory of what I was going to learn this evening. And a lot was learned; let me tell you, my friends! A LOT WAS LEARNED FROM THIS AMAZING EVENT!!!
The first thing the President of the Grammy Museum asked John was in regards to his creative process. He asked about how the new album from John came about, “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” and John went on to explain that his wife had the idea for the album, and it came out of the blue one night when the family was sitting around the TV set.
He further discussed the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and how did John manage his creative process of that era? “How did that happened in that period of time?” when CCR put out all those amazing albums? John answered that the whole process really was and still is mystical for him. John said, “I think the reason is that ever since I was 3 years old, I really enjoyed music. BY the time I was 8, I knew that music would be my whole life.” John also came up with what he thought was the best name for himself and his imagined rock band; Johnny Corvette & the Corvettes. The audience laughed at that, and this is the first time that I got to hear John talk at will. He speaks at a normal pace, does not say Um, or huh, and he does not have verbal hesitation. He is very clear on how he conveys what is on his mind, and takes his time to deliver an accurate answer. John looked very mentally sharp; he also looked really clean, calm and happy to be there. John was prepared to be interviewed and I feel he knew that these interviews are historically important.
He went on to talk a bit about Susie-Q, his first hit record and said, “That song was full of cool things.”
The Prez guy asked how John managed to write such a huge catalogue of hit tunes in such a short period of time (CCR era), and John answered, “I tried hard to come up with as much as I could. I wanted to flood the market with good music.” John went on to talk about “45’s” and he asked if anyone in the room still remembered what a 45 record was! That got a good laugh, and he remembers people saying, “Why are you wasting Born on the Bayou” on the flip side of “Proud Mary?” They thought that no one would play the flip side of the 45, “Proud Mary.” But they were wrong, weren’t they? This blew my hair back because I don’t remember having the 45 of PM and BOTB. I played the album, “Bayou Country” in order to hear the full song version of “Born on the Bayou.” That song still destroys all the competition on the radio these days, doesn’t it? WHATTA SONG!!!
John went on to explain that since all his favorite blues artists hailed from the South, he felt that it would be smart to write songs about the south; hence the bayou. John was reminded that Creedence sounded like they came from the Deep South; they looked and sounded the part to a tee.
There was a discussion of how John went about becoming a serious song writer and John offered that one day, he decided that he absolutely needed to get organized; now that the world finally decided to pay attention to his music. So he went down the corner drugstore and bought himself one of those spiral notebooks and on the front page of it, he wrote down, “Song Titles.” On the second page, he wrote down, “Proud Mary.” (Can you believe that?) What a way to start a songwriting book!!! This part now gets juicer than a steak-tar-tar….the unspeakably mysterious method of how John approaches HIS songwriting……(I was sitting at the edge of my seat trying to soak it all in.)
John says that when he was writing those famous hit songs, he would try to make himself write a song. He said that there is a very narrow window of which the song must pass through to make it a good song, or even a great song. John said that he creates an atmosphere where something might happen, and it usually occurs when the house is quiet – around the midnight hour. He waits for a song to show up, and it usually did. He had to jot the ideas down, or record himself playing the song and then continue working on the song until it sounded perfect to him. He said that for every “Bad Moon Rising” there were at least 10 other songs that completely failed and he abandoned, because once a song leads him to a “dead end” he has to let go of it and pursue something in a different direction that he likes better.
John went on to discuss the trips that he took down to Mississippi back in the late 1980’s to 1990. One day it just struck him that he had to go down to the south and visit some of the graves of those famous legendary bluesmen that he loved. There was no internet available to make it easier on him. He did a lot of reading about those old ghosts; and was obtaining a vast amount of learning and understanding of the topic. He’s stop by old barbershops and ask for directions; and sometimes he’d hear a good story or two about those old souls who have dearly departed the stage of life. One day, he found himself standing by an unmarked plot that was rumored to be the final resting spot of Robert Johnson; one of the most legendary naturally gifted blues men ever born! He started thinking about how Robert never saw any profit from his famous blues records, but instead, some executive in an ivory tower was cashing all the checks made possible only by the rare talent of Robert Johnson. John started to feel angry because of the injustice of it, and he started passionately shaking his fist at the tomb of the lost blues legend. People passing by must have thought this white man had completely lost it, but John was saying true things such as, “These songs will forever be your songs, Robert! I know that they came out of you and therefore, they belong to you!” (Or something similar.) But then reality hit John like a truck-load of bricks; hey. This could be your own story, John Fogerty! The parallels of Robert Johnsons’ loss of revenue and John’s loss of Creedence revenue was on a parallel universe.
John took a total of 6 trips down to Mississippi; at first he thought the true reason behind these visits was to learn about the bluesmen of the old south. But it wasn’t until the final visit, that John realized that somehow those old bluesmen were able to touch his soul and motivate him to get back to what he was born to do in this world, and that is to make music! The year was 1990 and this is when John decided he HAD to start singing his Creedence songs once again – because they belong to him and nobody on this planet can do it better!
He reached an epiphany that he wanted to get back to his music while he was still alive and not have his music released by a music exec while he was laying flat on his back under 6 feet of tear-stained dirt.
Now here’s another show-stopping moment that this fine show revealed. John was asked about that silly self-plagiarizing lawsuit brought against him by the greedy Saul Zaentz. John started to talk faster, a bit louder and with more passion. He got out his gold Gibson electric guitar and started playing the opening stanza of “Old Man Down the Road” versus “Run Through the Jungle.” It was AMAZING to watch and hear John compare some of the riffs of these 2 huge hits. John went on to say, “When something lands on you and you have to react, you have to know that a lot of people will judge you by the way in which you reacted to it.” So he was careful in his response to the suit. It went all the way to the Supreme Court and John had to play the song riffs in court for the jury to hear it. This was the most amazing part of the evening, I think. John would play a little bit from, “Old Man” then he’d switch over to “Jungle” and back and forth a few times. He admitted that there were similarities; because those songs share some of the same DNA, but not identical DNA. There is a difference! He played it – he sang those songs LIVE – no accompaniment from any band. It sounded full & rich – like there were at least 2 guitars in the room, but no – it was all John. I LOVED IT and the audience was spellbound & quite impressed!!!!
John then launched into his actual songwriting method. This is vital information for any person who writes music and wants to share inspiration from John Fogerty. John says he’ll get out a guitar and start strumming it naturally. Then he gets a riff that he may like – then he goes on to play it a couple of times and says stuff like, “Wow!” Then he says he challenges himself to answer the call riff with another riff that slams the big steel door shut. (Mental imagery.) Then he knows if he created a good song! He demonstrated how he got the opening stanza of “Old Man” and the whole process just leaped from out from his guitar and exploded to all over the room!!! We got to see and hear how John processes a melody from the ground up. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!!
He also went on to play other directions that he did not pursue in that song. He says that a song can take many different directions, but you have to know which one works best.
John also says that intellect and emotion play important parts in songwriting, but he feels that the emotion is the strongest part of any song. He told a spooky story that while he was in the throes of writing “Old Man” he ran over to his songwriter’s book, where he read some interesting lyrics that suited the song perfectly. He spotted the idea of “down the road” and he placed that into the lyrics of this song, and the song just came ALIVE! 5 years later, he went over to the same notebook of ideas and he could NOT find those words there at all!!! He realized that he saw something in that old notebook that was never there in the first place! (Isn’t that freaky?) Who would know that ghosts could write some hints into notebooks and then go back to erase them? SPOOKS!!!
Now here’s a great question that was asked of John. Where did he go during all those lost years when Creedence disbanded? John answered that he owed Fantasy Records 10 to 20 years worth of recordings and he was so weighed down by such an unattainable amount of work that he felt his songwriting abilities drained out of him. He felt like a prisoner in a dungeon of hell. He hit a writer’s block and was feeling so frustrated that he didn’t know what to do or where to turn. He called a meeting of Fantasy execs, and he showed up alone to the meeting, which wasn’t wise. They were treating him like he was some sort of indentured servant to them, and they showed no respect. He stormed out of that meeting with the threat of never returning, and as he walked slowly out of the room, he hoped that somebody would offer a reasonable alternative to his impossible situation, but nobody offered a thing! There sure was a lot of resentment still stuck in John’s throat over the raw deal that he got, but it is through talking therapy that he will heal. When John was talking about it, I could see that he is putting it all behind him, and he shows true gratitude towards his wife and family who have helped him deal with it over the years. That is one bitter pill that is tough for anyone to have to swallow. During those lost years, John said that he practiced the drums a lot and the saxophone a lot and the bass guitar a lot. He was able to tool together the Centerfield album during those dark days. While he was writing Centerfield, he began to experience a little self-doubt and felt that rock and baseball did NOT go together, but he loved baseball so much, that he just thought that he just HAD to release this song. Now it’s the most important baseball anthem the world has ever heard and he’s glad it all worked out.
The audience got a turn to ask a few questions and Ms New Orleans asked what is in the future for John Fogerty? Simply put, John responded that he would like to keep writing songs and performing in front of audiences. He revealed that he is in really good health; he feels good and still goes jogging daily. He looked very healthy as well, and I could tell that there were acres and acres of joy bounding from John tonight. He went on to say that he is still so in love with his beautiful wife Julie, who made this night possible for all the fans and he is totally involved with his kids, whom he just adores.
IN the end, John was gracious enough to perform a few songs; 1. “Have you Ever Seen the Rain” on acoustic guitar. 2. John played just the opening strain of “Midnight Special” on that famous black beauty of his, the Les Paul electric guitar. Then John surprised us all with a perfect performance of the best song in the known universe, “Proud Mary” on the Les Paul. The room erupted after that performance!!! IT WAS SIMPLY A SLICE OF HEAVEN SERVED UP WITH A SIDE OF VANILLA ICE CREAM. Then last, John did a powerful performance of “Fortunate Son” that electrified the room and he sang it so GOOD and SO LOUD – that I think all air traffic at nearby LAX temporarily came to a standstill!!! THIS WAS SUCH AN AMAZING AND FANTASTIC NIGHT!!!!!
John wrote a song for everyone; he wrote a song for truth – he wrote a song for everyone, and now he really wants to talk to you.
I WANT TO THANK EVERYONE FOR MAKING TONIGHT SUCH AN EXCELLENT EVENT FOR JOHN FOGERTY, HIS FAMILY AND HIS DIE-HARD FANS!!! I have to thank God Almighty in Heaven most of all – because a lot of what happened in John’s lifetime was just miraculous. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!!!! X O X O X O
LOVE to ALL!!!!September 27, 2013 at 5:29 am #1657
Let me the first to congratulate on your well written and informative post, DRBQ! As I was eagerly reading it I felt like I was right there at the event. I envy you getting the invitation to be there, live. It is added to my bucket list to visit the display in the near future.
PPSeptember 27, 2013 at 11:27 am #1658
DRBQ you are awesome. I was there and I was STILL eagerly reading every word you wrote. What a fantastic review. You really summed it up perfectly. I’m glad you got to see the exhibit and I hope all of the rest of you Fogerty fans make the pilgrimage out here!
-Swamp GirlSeptember 27, 2013 at 12:13 pm #1661
Thank you for such an awesome review!!September 27, 2013 at 12:20 pm #1662
Wow, what a beautiful night you had. You’ve made a great review DRBQ, I enjoyed it very much. I would love to be there, specially that explanations of the riffs and the creations with the guitar. Thank you DRBQ, what a great post! It’s so good to know that John wants to keep writing!! Loved the two new songs, they are amazing!
Saludos, Lautaro.September 27, 2013 at 4:04 pm #1669
Well today I thought about some things to write about but RBQ you did a wonderful job describing the night, I‘ll just add a little. It was a wonderful night John was very entertaining, if he didn’t write and perform music he should have been a comedian. John was describing the Fantasy vs. Fogerty trial he made everyone laugh, my wife looked at me laughing and saying he is so comical. I really enjoyed how he performed RTTJ and OMDTR actually playing the same way he did in front of the jury very interesting. Darlene asked the best question, I was so proud of her she nailed it. RBQ you did a wonderful job describing the evening. I have to say John playing without any backup was incredible. He could do a show solo and Rock the house he was that good last night.
Dan (Bootleg) SmithSeptember 27, 2013 at 10:00 pm #1672
Wow! Thanks so much for the fantastic post, DRBQ! I felt like I was there–and was riveted.
I’m going to try to get out to see the exhibit sometime before it closes. Or, perhaps it will tour. Wouldn’t that be cool.
NancySeptember 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm #1673
Great review DRBQ, thank you! I also had fun and it was a great show. John was very entertaining. It was great seeing You, Dan & Carol and Darlene again.
DanSeptember 29, 2013 at 3:49 pm #1687
oh wow, what an honorable tribute to John and his lifelong music career w/the grammy museum event! SO glad that my dear fellow fogey fans got to go to it and witness it all and hear such interesting things directly from John the man himself! what an honor to be able to attend such a once in a lifetime event! so glad to hear that Darlene was in attendance, too! love that girl as well as her precious pay phone story with john back in the day. so cute!
Bootleg – i hope you and Carol are gonna make it up to see me at Paso Robles! i even hear John’s gonna be playing there so you could even see him again, too!
Queen Mary – another STELLAR review by you! i’m always happy to know you’re attending a john event that i can’t cause i always know you’ll come through and give us plenty of play-by-play in 5000 words or more so we can feel like we were actually there, too! thanks again my dear gf. you’re a true blue fan and you’re so gracious to continuously give to all of us like you’ve done again and again for the past 7 years that i’ve known ya! XOX
LOTS and LOTS of good peeps i’ve met through the years and all thanks to our common love of John’s music – lyrics, voice, guitar skills and last but not least, his full-on energy he exudes at every performance! so grateful and in awe of the fact that he’s still so vibrantly healthy to still be able to perform as well as still rockin’ all over the world. touring ain’t for sissies that’s for sure! I’ve told several that John has been through the refiner’s fire in his career so many times that he’s forged steel now! TITANIUM, BABY!! Rock on, JOHN!! we love ya! THANK YEWWWW!!October 6, 2013 at 1:16 pm #1718
Thanks DRBQ for that awesome read!
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