- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

Can you still hear the bullfrogs callin’? Has it been too long since you did some serious rollin’ on a river or seen a bad moon risin’? Maybe your hoodoo got bad voodoo?

Then get on back to Green River, which for tonight only is being diverted through the 9:30 Club.

Having failed to Rock the Vote, John Fogerty returns to the District tonight to rock the rafters across town from the White House.

Touring behind his first new album in seven years, “Deja Vu All Over Again,” Mr. Fogerty is playing both solo and Creedence Clearwater Revival material with a band that he lauds as “the best I’ve ever played with.” Band mates include guitarist Billy Burnette, son of Dorsey Burnette of the seminal 1950s rockabilly outfit the Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio; drummer John Molo, formerly of Bruce Hornsby and the Range; and blues bassist George Hawkins.

Although he reigns as king of Louisiana Bayou Boogie, Mr. Fogerty is a California boy from the San Francisco suburb of El Cerrito. Amazing then, that he could so thoroughly synthesize and recast so much of the primal work of the South’s early rock, blues and country masters.

At its best, Mr. Fogerty’s music and the pictures it paints — “Willie and the Poor Boys playin’ for nickels, tap your feet,” “barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight” — have so deeply embedded themselves in American pop culture that they’ve transcended their times to become something akin to national folklore. The only other rock artists to accomplish a similar feat are probably Chuck Berry, Brian Wilson and Bob Dylan.

The new album contains at least two songs indelibly imprinted with the classic “CCR/Fogerty” stamp: the title track and “Wicked Old Witch.” The former is yet another antiwar anthem from the man who has penned some of the genre’s best (“Fortunate Son,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain”).

“I was actually sitting down to write a swamp-rock song when it seemed like the first line of the song just got whispered into my ear,” Mr. Fogerty recalls via cell phone while driving though the mountains of Tennessee. “It was the fastest I’ve ever gone from not even having an idea to having a half-finished song. A lot of people are saying it’s a political song, but I don’t buy it. Dead soldiers don’t have a political agenda. It’s told from the point of view of a family who has lost a loved one in war.”

“Wicked Old Witch” turned out to be the swamp rocker he was initially trying to write that day. It was inspired by his 3-year-old daughter’s love for her “Wizard of Oz” DVD. “We were watching it like three times each day, and she was just fascinated by the Wicked Witch.” Maybe so, Toto, but the musical terrain of the song is a lot more like the Delta than Kansas.

The old swamp dog also has a few new tricks under his collar on the new disc. Like “She’s Got Baggage,” which tips the hat to Joey Ramone. Right? “Well, I’ve had others tell me that, but I’ve never listened to the Ramones. I was just trying to play 1960s garage rock. I dare say anytime you get a bunch of teenagers turned loose in a garage with real instruments, it will come out sounding like that.”

“Radar,” driven by an incredibly cheesy but cool organ riff, brings to mind the Sir Douglas Quintet’s “She’s About a Mover” or Question Mark and the Mysterians “96 Tears.” “I love that sound,” Mr. Fogerty says. “It’s the real deal — me on Continental Vox organ. It’s also the sound you hear on ‘Louie, Louie.’”

Everyone kept telling Mr. Fogerty that “Nobody’s Here Anymore” sounded like a Dire Straits song. “So I decided it would be cool to call up the man himself and see if I could get him to play on it,” he says. “Then, when everybody said it sounded like Mark Knopfler, there would be a good reason for it.”

So how does Mr. Knopfler get that distinctive guitar sound? “I believe he uses his signature Strat (Fender Stratocaster) through an old AC30 or Tweed Deluxe [amplifier],” Mr. Fogerty ventures. “But the real answer is that it comes from his fingers. You can have 20 different people playing through the same equipment, but only one of them will create magic like that.”

Mr. Fogerty is feeling good these days, real good. Which is a major switch from the long post-CCR years when he was sunk in depression over his lengthy legal battles with his former record company and CCR band mates. He ultimately lost the fight and his Creedence publishing rights to Fantasy Records boss (and movie producer) Saul Zaentz.

When Mr. Fogerty finally ended a decade-long recording drought with his 1985 hit comeback album “Centerfield,” he still felt enough bitterness that he saluted his old boss with “Zanz Kant Dance,” about a dancing pig who is also a pickpocket. That album cut — surprise, surprise — led to further lawsuits (he eventually had to re-record the song and change the lyric).

Things slid into theater of the absurd country when Mr. Fogerty was sued by Fantasy for plagiarizing himself on “Old Man Down the Road.” Mr. Fogerty won that one.

“Try your very best to own your own music [publishing rights],” an older and wiser Fogerty today advises young musicians. “It’s not always possible, but you should sure try. Even be careful about sharing your music [publishing] with other members of the band. But whatever your arrangement is, get it down in writing so everyone has to stick to it.”

Mr. Fogerty says his life changed dramatically for the better when he married Julie (his second wife). You can hear it on “Joy of My Life” from his 1997 “Blue Moon Swamp” album, when he sings “I am the luckiest man alive.”

“I truly believe that God has rewarded, or compensated, me for having gone through all that stuff,” Mr. Fogerty says. “From the day I met Julie, it all started to almost instantly get better. Now I have a beautiful family, and my heart is full of joy. When joy fills up that space, it eradicates all the bitterness. I’m having the time of my life.”

WHO: John Fogerty

WHERE: The 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW

WHEN: Tonight, 6 p.m.

TICKETS: Sold out

PHONE: 202/265-0930

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