Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Forgotten Woodstock Performance

What is sometimes forgotten with the passing of time and against the seminal influence of Woodstock is that Creedence Clearwater Revival was one of the few bands to appear at the festival that had already achieved significant success on the Billboard charts. Truth is, there are some that don’t even know the band performed there at all on August 17, 1969. The reason, of course, is that CCR was not in the movie or the album that came out in the wake of the festival.

Creedence’s hour-long set was like a greatest hits album, with “Bad Moon Rising” and “Proud Mary” both having reached No.2 on the Billboard Hot 100. As they walked on stage at Woodstock, just after midnight on Saturday, their current single, “Green River” was at No.15, its third week on the U.S. chart; it would be their third single to reach No.2. As John Fogerty later said, “By the time we got to Woodstock, I felt we were the number one band. Assuming that The Beatles were God, I thought that we were the next thing under them.”

To the band, Woodstock must have seemed like just another festival, as it did at the time to so many of the artists. In the summer of 1969 CCR had already played the Newport Festival in California, the Denver and the Atlanta festivals, along with the Atlantic City Festival. Given the fact that they were just about the hottest band on the charts, every promoter wanted them at the top – or close to the top – of the bill.

The festival set
Unlike so many of the bands at Woodstock, CCR went on stage fairly close to their scheduled midnight slot, even though they were supposed to be in a prime Saturday evening slot. According to John Fogerty, “We were supposed to be in the prime spot for that evening. The Dead went on and pulled their usual shenanigans.”

Their hour-long set started at half-past midnight on Sunday, August 17, and kicked off with the perfect opener: “Born On The Bayou.” They followed it with “Green River” and then a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do),” from their debut album, after which it was “Commotion,” “Bootleg,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary.”

Up to that point, the group very much played the songs as you might have experienced them on the record. As their set progressed, however, they stretched their songs into longer, more improvised versions, which was their normal way of playing them. “I Put A Spell On You” stretched the five-minute single to almost twice its length, while “Keep On Chooglin’” ran for close to ten minutes. “Suzie Q,” the Dale Hawkins classic, went far past its original eight-minute run-time.

Why were they not in the film?
Why were they not in the film? Most likely their record company at the time was unwilling to co-operate. Did it affect their career? It’s hard to say, but it obviously would have done them no harm on the world stage to have the additional exposure. Nonetheless, like “Green River,” “Bad Moon Rising,” and “Proud Mary,” both “Travellin’ Band” and “Lookin’ out My Back Door” made No.2 on the Billboard chart, and they eventually topped the charts in Britain with “Bad Moon Rising.” Their album, Green River, came out a month after Woodstock and it topped the charts, as did Cosmo’s Factory the following year. CCR were huge… but could they have been even bigger?

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