Take 5: John Fogerty

Spring 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the release of The Blue Ridge Rangers, the debut solo album from singer and musician John Fogerty. The former leader and primary songwriter of Creedence Clearwater Revival, Fogerty’s solo work often (but not always) displayed a character quite similar to that of his old band. But Fogerty’s body of work also showcases the man’s facility on a wide range of instruments; his skill at composing and arranging in different styles; and (on occasion) his ability to write a hit. Here are five gems from John Fogerty’s still thriving post-CCR solo career.

“Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” from The Blue Ridge Rangers (1973)
The original release of Fogerty’s first post-CCR album didn’t even print his name on the cover. Credited to the fictitious Blue Ridge Rangers, the sounds on the album are all the work of John Fogerty. The songs themselves are a different matter entirely: all 12 of the album’s tracks are covers, drawn from country and traditional music. Fogerty’s reading of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” made it into the US. Top 20 singles chart.

“Rockin’ All Over the World” from John Fogerty (1975)
For his second long player, Fogerty served up a set mostly made of originals, joined by a pair of well-chosen covers. The Motown classic “Lonely Teardrops” might have seemed an unlikely choice, but Fogerty made the 1958 tune (popularized by Jackie Wilson) his own. His reading of Huey “Piano” Smith’s “Sea Cruise” was released as a single, but it was a Fogerty original, “Rockin’ All Over the World” that made it onto the Top 40. Until its 2021 reissue, John Fogerty had been out of print for more than 40 years.

“The Old Man Down the Road” from Centerfield (1985)
Shortly after releasing his second album, Fogerty began work on Hoodoo. By mutual agreement with his label, that album’s release was canceled; only two songs from the session have ever appeared officially (a hissy dub of the unreleased album circulates among hardcore collectors). The episode led to Fogerty stepping away from the music business for nearly a decade. When Fogerty returned to the music scene, it quickly became clear that he had regained the fire that informed his earlier work with CCR. Once again Fogerty played all of the instruments on the album. Centerfield was a smash, earning Double Platinum sales in the U.S. “The Old Man Down the Road” was the first single from the LP; it soared to the #10 spot on the charts. A second single, “Rock and Roll Girls” followed a few months later, backed by the title track. It fared nearly as well, peaking at #20.

“Knockin’ On Your Door” from Eye of the Zombie (1986)
After taking a nine-year break before making Centerfield, in the wake of that album’s success, Fogerty immediately began work on a followup. Foregoing the one-man-band route and employing support musicians, Eye of the Zombie wouldn’t match Centerfield’s sales figures – nor its critical praise – though the album was nominated for a Grammy award. Two singles were released from the LP, but did not chart. “Knockin’ On Your Door” was released as a 12” promo single; today it’s Spotify’s most-streamed track from the album.

“Hot Rod Heart” from Blue Moon Swamp (1997)
After the relative disappointment of Eye of the Zombie, Fogerty took another extended break from making records; this time more than a decade would pass before another album appeared. But it was worth the wait: Blue Moon Swamp was met with widespread critical praise and won Best Rock Album at the Grammy Awards that year. Fogerty’s approach to making the record fell halfway between the method of his two previous releases: he played most of the instruments, using a variety of bassists and drummers to round on the arrangements. Coming out at the peak of the CD era, “Hot Rod Heart” was released as a promotional CD single.