From Creedence Clearwater Revival to a respected solo career to a recent album boasting renovations of his songs with an arsenal of superstars, John Fogerty can undoubtedly be considered one of the kingpins of classic rock.
The genial Californian is an astounding guitarist and champion songwriter – it’s a small list of artists who can claim songs as monumental as “Proud Mary” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” on their résumés – and, at 68, he sounds re-invigorated.
He recently performed with jam band monsters Widespread Panic and last month joined the Zac Brown Band at their Southern Ground Music Festival in Nashville. Atlanta’s ZBB is among the heavy-hitters on Fogerty’s current album, “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” tackling “Bad Moon Rising” with the master. Foo Fighters, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley and Kid Rock are some of the other marquee names peppering the release.
Before his tour kickoff last month, a sweetly chatty Fogerty checked in from the home in Los Angeles that he and his wife are renovating to talk about his admiration of Zac Brown and how “Wrote a Song” changed his perspective on some of his well-worn staples.
Q. So how do you feel about being known as the father of the flannel shirt?
A. I’m proud of that. It’s not shtick to me. I’d be watching TV and see a basketball game coming from Portland and think, “Look at all those cool shirts.” I’d see a guy in a young band, like Dave Grohl, with a T-shirt and a cool plaid shirt over it and I’d think, “That guy has good taste.” I always saw it, like, I wanted to have that shirt, not that that guy was influenced by me. If I see a person with that shirt, the plaid shirt, without me having to say a word, it kind of states who I am.
Q. It took you a couple of years to get “Wrote a Song for Everyone” released. Were you waiting to get the exact lineup of guests that you wanted?
A. Kinda yes and no. After my wife suggested, “Why don’t you get a bunch of people you love to sing your songs?” that was pretty clear – I’m calling people I like, it’s my list! Talk about having an extended family and trying to get them all to come out to the family reunion. Getting together with (the artists) was a logistical thing. Brad (Paisley) came with his guitar and shoot, that could have been all there was to it, but maybe there were things in my playing that needed to be fixed. I’m the guy inside going, ‘it’s not done until it’s good.’ It’s like a sporting event, I’m the underdog, and the game ain’t over yet, but I’m behind two touchdowns.
Q. You’ve got Zac Brown on the album and (played) his Southern Ground festival.
A. I’m a huge Zac Brown fan. I love his band, the way they sound and Zac’s arrangements and his singing. Their vocals – they sure get a cool harmony thing going on. We had been at Bonnaroo a couple of years ago and we didn’t get a chance to talk, but then we were on a country music awards show a few years ago and I walked into the rehearsal space and Zac was standing talking to someone else and I walked right up and hovered. So he turned to me and I introduced myself and said, “I’d love to pick with you sometime.” He pulled out his phone and said, “What’s your number?” and tapped it into his phone. What that tells you is that everything is going to be OK because he isn’t going to blow you off.
Q. You’re John Fogerty! Who would blow you off?
A. (Laughs sheepishly) I think he could sense that I had a high regard for him. After a few logistical possibilities, it looked like we were never going to be in the same part of the world at the same time. The album was getting pretty dang near the wrap-up – it might have been late last year, early this year and all those record company people are standing there going, “You all done?” I said, “There’s one more.” We figured Zac could get in a studio and I was on the phone; we had talked about how to do it and he has a studio now in Nashville.
Q. It sounded like a great experience, from recording in New Orleans with Alan Toussaint to using the Foo Fighters’ console. Is it something you would do again, maybe a volume 2?
A. I’m way too respectful of this. Other people have already mentioned a volume 2, a Frankenstein, which is all really cool. That’s a possibility, but Alan Jackson sang “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” (on this album). That’s like having Lincoln on your record. I’d love to be live with all these people at least one time, but I don’t want to dilute the idea. I really am itching to write original songs and go at it that way again. This was an interesting project and it came at a great time in my life … these artists had a gleam in their eyes and made me look at these songs in a way I wasn’t quite seeing them. It really gave me a nice jolt about my songs. If you do an old song a lot of times, I hate to say it, but you start to take it for granted. This breathed new life into the old songs.