John Fogerty, either solo or with Creedence Clearwater Revival, is one of the great songwriters in rock. As a guitarist, many of these songs began from a riff that emerged while he was simply strumming. His style is basic and simple, but full of strength and feeling. His references are the great guitarists of the first generation of rock, people like Duane Eddy, Scotty Moore and James Burton, with whom he shares the idea that ‘the skeleton’ of a great song begins with a good riff. Here are ten of our favorites.
Born On The Bayou
John Fogerty has played since 1959 with Doug Clifford, Stu Cook and his brother Tom, first as The Blue Velvets, later as The Golliwogs and, finally, as Creedence Clearwater Revival. Little by little Fogerty took control of the band, as he was lead singer and guitarist, as well as the sole composer and producer of their records. He gradually forged his sound with his version of Dale Hawkins' Suzie Q, which appeared on the band's first album, and was the moment, it could be said, in which ‘he found it’.The song incorporates James Burton's mythical riff, which he slowed down and gave his personal touch. It is understandable that the first great song of the bands’ career (and many more were to come in a very short time) was built on another great riff, one that would define their sound and forever attach the adjective 'swampy' to their music, even though these guys had never been to the Louisiana Bayou ever, despite the song's title. That echoey sound was achieved with a widebody guitar, such as the Gibson ES-175, and a lot of tremolo, achieving the distinctive sound that would accompany the band during their heyday.
Many of Fogerty's songs begin with him fooling around with the guitar until he finds a riff or a 'lick' that ignites the flame of his creativity. In the one for this song he even found the title, as that's what that guitar phrase sounded like to him, played on his favorite early Creedence gear, his Rickenbacker 325 plugged into a 100-watt Kustom K200A amp. It's a favorite song from his own repertoire and he again draws on the sound of the rockabilly greats as one of his main inspirations, with James Burton as the main influence.
Bad Moon Rising
This is another mythical song with another great riff, in which Fogerty mixes chords and licks borrowed from Scotty Moore of Elvis Presley's I'm Left, You're Right, She's Gone. The evocative song title came from his little notebook in which he kept possible song titles and of it he said he "didn't even know what it meant, I just really liked the sound of it." Accompanying John on the riff is his brother Tom's Rickenbacker 360.
Down On The Corner
A riff as simple as it is unforgettable, this time with a certain soul and funky touch, something that is more noticeable in the excellent live version they did with another of Fogerty’s great influences, Booker T and the MGs. It has another great on guitar, and another Fogerty influence, Steve Cropper, with one of his beloved Telecasters.
Earlier I was talking about the swampy sound of Creedence, well this is that sound materialized in a riff that opens this incredible song from Willy And The Poor Boys, another of the band's essential albums. Beyond the riff, this is one of the songs in which you can best appreciate Fogerty's own style on guitar.
John Fogerty wrote this marvel in less than 20 minutes, overwhelmed by the feeling of rage that his country was sending people to fight a war thousands of miles away, without giving a single explanation, as always, to the most disadvantaged - not the children of the Nixon or Eisenhower... His riff is a perfect encapsulation of that fury made song. In fact it is possibly the best of his career, played on the guitar that replaced the Rickenbacker as his favorite, a '57 Les Paul Custom.
This is the song that opened the best album of his career, Cosmo's Factory. It is a colossal song that opens with a funk riff, which is quickly joined by the whole band to move on to a song that seems to be recorded in Sun Studios in 1955, but that changes tempo and intensity several times in its more than seven minutes in which Fogerty shines on the six strings accompanied by his faithful '57 Les Paul Custom.
Run Through The Jungle
Another swampy riff, perfect for a song that takes us to the jungle of Vietnam, or so everyone thought, until John Fogerty recently said that the song was really about the proliferation of guns in the US. This track was a Creedence favorite of John's older brother, Tom Fogerty, who declared "it's like a little movie in itself with all the sound effects. It never changes pitch, but it keeps your interest the whole time. It's like a musician's dream. It never changes pitch, but you have the illusion that it does," alluding to the fact that the song never changes chords.
Up Around The Bend
This is possibly the best riff on this list. Fogerty himself has stated that the whole song starts from the riff that was the first thing he identified, and that led its author to complete the whole song. The fact is that this marvel, also included on Cosmo's Factory, was also interpreted with his Rickenbacker 325 of 67 with Bigsby incorporated.
A great riff that opens the last great album by the band, Pendulum, released in 1970. This was an album in which they began to change their sound, adding an organ to the equation that gave them a more soulful effect. Of course, no one would suspect it listening to this song that goes back to their most classic stage, with an even more abrasive sound, both in the guitar and in the voice, and with an on fire Fogerty who dedicates the whole second part of the song to shine on his guitar.