The Creedence Clearwater Revival song John Fogerty called “mythical”

The idea that Creedence Clearwater Revival was a band of southern swamp rats was a common misconception throughout the 1960s and 1970s. While CCR romanticised the sights and sounds of the south in songs like ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Ramble Tamble’, the band themselves hailed from the Bay Area of San Francisco, California. In fact, clues could be pulled from songs like ‘Green River’ and ‘Lodi’, both of which reference areas of the band’s home state.

If one song epitomised the band’s obsession with the south, it was ‘Born on the Bayou’. For most audiences hearing John Fogerty’s honking vocals talk about running through backwood bays and chasing down hoodoo, it was only obvious that the band would hail from somewhere close to Louisiana.

According to Fogerty, the origins of the song came during a soundcheck at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco. “We were the #7 act on the bill, bottom of the totem pole. And as the first guys to go on, we were the last to soundcheck before they opened the doors,” Fogerty told Rolling Stone. “It was like, ‘Here’s the drums, boom, boom; here’s the guitar, clank, clank.’ I looked over at the guys and said, ‘Hey, follow this!’ Basically, it was the riff and the attitude of ‘Born on the Bayou,’ without the words.”

“‘Born on the Bayou’ was vaguely like ‘Porterville’, about a mythical childhood and a heat-filled time, the Fourth of July. I put it in the swamp where, of course, I had never lived,” Fogerty admitted. “It was late as I was writing. I was trying to be a pure writer, no guitar in hand, visualizing and looking at the bare walls of my apartment.”

“Tiny apartments have wonderful bare walls, especially when you can’t afford to put anything on them,” he added. “‘Chasing down a hoodoo.’ Hoodoo is a magical, mystical, spiritual, non-defined apparition, like a ghost or a shadow, not necessarily evil, but certainly other-worldly. I was getting some of that imagery from Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters.”

Fogerty penned ‘Born on the Bayou’, ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Keep On Chooglin’ in his bare apartment, dreaming of placing himself away from the cityscape of San Francisco. “I was writing these at night, and I remember that Bobby Kennedy got killed during this time,” Fogerty said in the book Band Moon Rising. “I saw that late at night. They kept showing it over and over. ‘Bayou’ and ‘Proud Mary’ and ‘Chooglin” were all kind of cooking at that time.”

“I’d say that was when the whole swamp bayou myth was born—right there in a little apartment in El Cerrito,” he claimed. “It was late at night and I was probably delirious from lack of sleep. I remember that I thought it would be cool if these songs cross-referenced each other. Once I was doing that, I realized that I was kind of working on a mythical place.”

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