Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music

Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music

by John Fogerty

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316244572
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 10/06/2015
Pages: 416
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.50(d)

About the Author

John Fogerty was songwriter, lead singer, and lead guitarist for Creedence Clearwater Revival and is one of rock's most influential musicians and writers.

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Fortunate Son

My Life, My Music


By John Fogerty, Jimmy McDonough

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2015 John Fogerty
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-316-38773-6



CHAPTER 1

El Cerrito Days


I was driving home the other day with my wife, Julie, and our daughter, Kelsy, after a long day out and about. It felt right? — ?all of us warm and comfortable together, content from our day. Suddenly I had a flash of a memory, something that I hadn't thought about in a long time. It reminded me why I cherish these ordinary moments with my family.

My mind was back in a time when I was in the ninth or tenth grade, and I needed to get the homework for that day, which I'd somehow missed at St. Mary's High School. I'd been instructed to pick it up at the house of my friend Michael Still. He answered the door with his younger brother, both of them in nice robes and pajamas, looking freshly scrubbed. My friend apologized for their pj's, saying, "My mom likes us to get our nightly bath over with before dinner so we can relax." Relax.

I remember standing there, feeling all that warmth and happiness flowing from their home, thinking about how these boys were really taken care of. Even though I was just a kid, the disparity between my friend's life and mine was pretty clear to me: he was going to stay home and relax, and I was heading home to a cold, empty house and my drab cement basement bedroom that often flooded. There were no dinner plans — my mom was working, and my dad no longer lived with us. And no, I wasn't going to relax.


I was born on May 28, 1945. I grew up in El Cerrito, California. Years ago I made the mistake of filling out some questionnaire that asked where I was born, and since there's no hospital in El Cerrito, the correct answer is Berkeley, which is what I answered. But I didn't live there and I wish I'd reasoned that out, because now when my childhood is mentioned, it's always attributed to a place that's not my hometown.

I am proudly from El Cerrito. And warm predinner baths and robes or not, I dearly loved my early days and wouldn't trade them with anybody. El Cerrito certainly stamped a different view on me than what some hustling street kid in New York City would have gotten, or a songwriter growing up in Nashville. They're more savvy about stuff. Basically nothing came from El Cerrito, although the baseball players Pumpsie Green and Ernie Broglio both attended El Cerrito High School. I do feel really lucky to have grown up in a little town.

Things were unhurried. Everything was close and friendly and familiar, not nearly so fearful as things can seem these days. There was a little row of businesses near my house, with Bert's Barber Shop, the Louis grocery store, a drugstore, a beauty salon, and Ortman's Ice Cream — you could get a slush for a quarter. When I had a paper route, that was a daily thing.

Man, I'm not even that old but I lived in a different time. I grew up before rapid transit. A six-year-old kid could walk around by himself, head over to the market with a nickel in his pocket, and buy an apple. I remember going over to talk to the butcher to get bones for my dog. You could walk to school. I'm sure the class sizes were actually fairly large, but I recall them being intimate. The teacher looked right at me and talked to me. I had some teachers I really liked. My second grade teacher, Mrs. Fuentes. Miss Bagevitch, my sixth grade teacher. She talked about education and intellectual things in a way that mattered. Miss Bagevitch was inspiring and always gave me a lot of time.

Officer Ray Morris was the local police officer. He rode a three-wheel motorcycle — a memorable thing, for sure. But the reason I know his name is because he was, in a sense, my commanding officer. I was in traffic patrol in fifth and sixth grade — a lieutenant with a whistle and a sweater. And Officer Ray Morris was in charge.

Once I sent away for a siren that you could attach to the front wheel of your bike. I added an old stove timer to that, so when I pulled up to a place, it would go rooooooowrrrrr DING! Outasight. One day I'm blazing down Fairmont Avenue, going all of twenty miles an hour, and I blast right through the Ashbury Avenue intersection by the school, revving my siren and timer. And Ray Morris is sitting right there on his three-wheel motorcycle, just shaking his head. He didn't come over and yell at me — the look was enough. He'd show up at our Boy Scouts meetings too. Once, my bike got stolen and it was no time before he got it back. When I look back now, it's remarkable how close and interwoven all that stuff was in my life. It was community.

Children — I prefer their world even now. I'll bet I have every episode of SpongeBob SquarePants committed to memory. Same with Hannah Montana and the Wiggles' TV show. I sit and watch the shows with my kids. A child can sit and think about one little thing for eons. Adults can seem short and snippy to kids. They don't dive into things. They're in a hurry. Kids are aware of that other, grown-up place, and they think, It's okay — if I don't do anything too bad, they'll leave me alone.

So you wander around in your own little world, mostly unfettered by what the grown-ups do. I know I did. At the drugstore near my house, there was a soda fountain. I'd put my ten cents on the counter, they'd take some syrup and fizz water and make you a soda fountain drink. There was a little moment one time when I was sitting there, staring at the Green River soda label on the syrup bottle. It's an old-timey illustration of a yellow moon over a river between two banks — now it reminds me a bit of the Sun Records logo. It really struck me, like, "Wow, I'd like to go there." Green River — I saved that title in my brain, filed it away. Why did I care about that? I was eight. But I was absorbing everything, everything I thought might be important for later in my life, even if I didn't know why. That's what you do as a kid. Everything matters.

El Cerrito had a drive-in movie theater. We always called it the "Motor Movies." When we lived at 226 Ramona Avenue I had the room over the garage and the top bunk of a set of bunk beds. I could watch the movies from my bed. I remember watching Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and, I believe, Moulin Rouge through my bedroom window. And various monster movies that my mom wouldn't let me go see!

Us kids would ride bikes on the grounds of the drive-in, and I regularly climbed up inside the screen to the top. Next to the drive-in was an old adobe building called the Adobe Restaurant. My mom told me that the place used to have slot machines, and I learned it may have been a house of "ill repute" in the '30s and '40s. Strangely, when they closed the drive-in and a shopping mall was about to be built, an arsonist destroyed the Adobe (perhaps clearing the way for that property to be included in the new mall). I remember going through the ruins and finding square metal nails from the early 1800s.

There was a really cool place to play that was not too far away from our house. It was called Indian Rock and it was just a big bunch of boulders. There were a couple of passageways you could squeeze through. A great place to play hide-and-seek.

Of course, the ultimate play place had been the high school itself when I lived across the street on Eureka Avenue. It's a wonder any of us kids survived. I remember all these big pipes that were one and a half to two and a half feet in diameter. We were little, so we could crawl inside those things and shimmy down to the other end and hide. Kind of like in the movie Them! Jeez! It would have been so easy to have gotten sealed up inside there. No one would've found us ... ever. Then there were the piles of sand and gravel — I guess they made concrete out of that. And ropes hanging everywhere that you could climb up and slide down. I think the jig was up when we found a whole bunch of glass. It was probably meant to be windows for the classrooms, but for us aspiring baseball players it made a perfect target! Busted ...

One sunny morning me and Mickey Cadoo had a day for the ages. I was about four years old. First we had climbed some small apricot trees and stuffed our pockets with green (unripe) apricots. Then, after eating a few of these, we decided to "climb to the top of the high school." They were still framing the building up on the top floor, and there was a lot of exposed wood crisscrossing and not nailed down. Somehow we managed to get all the way to the top level and stand up on the frame. There was nothing but sky above us.

I had seen cartoons where guys slip on a banana peel, so to make it even more dangerous, I untied my shoelaces, letting them dangle. There was a long, thin board that was just lying across the two sides of the framed space, maybe ten feet from one side to the other. The board was about six inches wide and perhaps one inch thick. So as I stepped out onto this board, it began to bounce up and down. Right about this time, I noticed my dad down in the front yard of our house, which was just across the street. There I was, fifty feet in the air, calling down to my dad, "Hey, Dad, Dad — look at me! I'm up here!"

Well, my dad looked up and saw me there, and his heart must have stopped. I remember that he started jumping up and down, almost like dancing, arms waving in the air. And after a few shocked exclamations, he began to say, "Don't move, Johnny! Stay there, stay there. Do not move!" Somehow I stayed put and my dad clambered up the structure and got us to safety. Whew.

I lived in the El Cerrito area until I was forty. In 1986, long after I'd graduated out of traffic patrol, El Cerrito declared July 15 John Fogerty Day. That little ceremony was very small and sweet, the mayor spoke, and a few fans came from far and wide. Usually when somebody gets these things it's because they invented something or cured a disease. In my case, the official proclamation mentioned songs: "Whereas Mr. Fogerty has written 'Proud Mary' and 'Down on the Corner' ..." Not everybody has a day set aside by their hometown, so being honored in that way is pretty untouchable to me. Whatever happens for the rest of my life, I will always remember that fondly.


I loved the song "Shoe-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy," and when I was a kid I sang it everywhere. Apparently, one Sunday morning at church I became filled with the spirit and broke into the song. I started dancing, and to illustrate the lyric I made my eyes bug out while I rubbed my naked tummy. The folks in church got a big kick out of this bouncy, diaper-wearing baby belting out "Shoe-Fly Pie." The more my parents tried to shush me, the more my "audience" laughed. I'm told I created quite a scene. Two years old and already on the road to perdition!

I can remember riding in the car in the dark back then. Nighttime. And my parents were singing to each other. With no accompaniment. They would sing a lot of old American and Irish standards, like "By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "Shine On, Harvest Moon," "Little Sir Echo," "Danny Boy" — things like that. They weren't singing to the radio, they were just singing with each other. They'd do one song they called "Cadillac" — "Cadillac, you got the cutest little Cadillac." I asked my parents about that one. I thought it was odd that somebody would write a song about a car. They explained to me that it was actually a song called "Baby Face," and they had changed the words. When Little Richard's second album came out, he had both "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Baby Face" on there for the parents, and this made total sense to me.

Listening to my folks sing was really nice. I realized even then that it sounded full. I'd sit between them and sometimes sing along. If one of my parents sang a different note that complemented the melody of a song that I knew, like "Jingle Bells," I'd get curious — "That sounds good, but what are you doing?" They told me they were harmonizing. My parents were very good at it.

So that's where I first heard about harmony: sitting in the front seat in that old car with my parents. A little later, in public school, probably about the fourth grade, Mrs. Gufstafson would come in and teach music for an hour once a week or so. That's where I first learned "The Erie Canal Song" and "This Land Is Your Land." There was some American songbook we were learning from. Sometimes there would be a piano accompanying us, and sometimes we were just doing this a cappella. And I always looked forward to it.

Everyone was singing in unison, all singing melody, and I'd sit there and start singing harmony. I really had fun finding a note either over or under what the class was singing. And because there were forty kids singing their part and only me singing my part, it felt pretty safe to experiment. I was drowned out a bit, but I could hear it. If it was wrong, I could quickly change before anybody heard. Both my regular teacher and my music teacher would take note that I was somehow harmonizing — and knew what sounded right. Without being told. One day we were singing "Come Now and See My Farm for It Is Beautiful," and Mrs. Gufstafson looked over as I was singing away, and I said, "Is that okay?" She said yes and smiled.

Sound was one thing and lyrics another, and I have cared about both practically forever. My dad and I were in the car once, talking about the song "Big Rock Candy Mountain." We liked that song and he was explaining it to me. It seemed like a really fun place. Then we got to that "little streams of alcohol" part. I asked my dad, "What does that mean? What's 'alcohol'?" He said, "It's something grown-ups like to drink. That would be fun — a whole river full of it, like if there was a whole river of soda pop!" It's ironic: here I was, asking a guy the meaning of "alcohol" when I would eventually learn that he consumed far too much of it. And so would I.

There's certainly a lot of musical influence from both of my parents, but probably more so my mom because I was around her a lot more. My mom played what was called stride piano: her left hand would play a bass note and then a chord, and the right hand would be doing melody and also some syncopation. It was cool, kind of like boogie-woogie. And she was appropriately sloppy. It sounded kind of barrelhouse.

My mom would play the piano and sing "Shine On, Harvest Moon," and sometimes I'd sing along. This was after my parents split up. When you're a kid who's a little rambunctious and rebellious, sometimes you join in, sometimes you act like it's corny and not cool at all. But "Shine On, Harvest Moon" is still one of my favorite songs. One of the best versions is Oliver Hardy singing it in a Laurel and Hardy movie, The Flying Deuces. That version of "Shine On, Harvest Moon" was truly inspiring to me. Laurel is dancing, doing a kind of soft shoe, and Hardy is singing. It's a thirties musical arrangement, but Oliver is more bluesy. And he sings really good! Even though it was slapstick for the rest of the movie, this was serious. Nobody laughed at this. At least that's how I took it: they were presenting art.


There were five boys in our house. We were pretty rough-and-tumble, it's a wonder we didn't all end up in San Quentin. It would've been so easy to fall in with the wrong kids. None of us had any trouble that way, really. My parents — especially my mom — kept my brothers and me on a fairly wholesome path. Whenever I got too close to the edge, my mom would pull me back. I'd call us lower middle class.

My mom was a social person, kind of gregarious. After my parents divorced, she got a teaching degree and dealt mostly with emotionally and even mentally challenged young people. She knew an awful lot about that stuff — I say "that stuff" because us boys really didn't know a lot about my mom's work. Her job was across the bay in South San Francisco, so she left pretty early in the morning and didn't get back until almost dinnertime. That's a lot of day we had to ourselves, and we turned out all right.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Fortunate Son by John Fogerty, Jimmy McDonough. Copyright © 2015 John Fogerty. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown and Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Contents

Cover,
Disclaimer,
Title Page,
Copyright,
Dedication,
Introduction: Beautiful Dreamer,
1. El Cerrito Days,
2. The D Word,
3. My Influences,
4. "There's Somethin' Missing," Says R. B. King,
5. The ... Golliwogs?,
6. Dirty Little Wars,
7. Susie Q,
8. I Guess I'm Just Gonna Have to Do It with Music,
9. "We're with Ya, John!",
10. Tom Leaves,
11. Three-Legged Stool,
12. Hoodooed,
13. Springtime in the Bahamas,
14. Put Me in, Coach,
15. Wild as a Mink, Sweet as Soda Pop,
16. Zanz Kant Danz (But He'll Steal Your Money),
17. Crossroads,
18. "This Is Only Going to End One Way",
19. Why I Didn't Play at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or They Don't Care About the Music; Just Give 'Em the Money,
20. Revival,
21. Wrote a Song for Everyone,
Epilogue: Flying,
Acknowledgments,
About the Author,

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Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
brf1948 More than 1 year ago
I received a free paperback copy of this memoir from Goodreads, Little Brown and Company and John Fogerty in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, folks, for sharing your hard work with me. This is an excellent autobiography covering John Fogerty's musical career, and the ups and downs of both his public and private life. It is so nice, after the years of setbacks and pain, to see he is in such a good place. And it's good to have both sides of those downs from the horse's mouth - Fogerty states the facts, and doesn't whine. Altogether an uplifting book, and lot's of great new music to follow, as well. This is a book I will share with family.
harpyrec More than 1 year ago
5 stars is a small amount of stars to this guy and what he has accomplished and been through in life. My entire inspiration to keep it simple but fun is confirmed in this man's knowledge base. His reasons for how he feels are described here with total comprehension, unlike in the old days when I would have to wonder why he did not allow his former bandmates to play on the hall of fame show. I would not have myself. The loss and betrayal are amazing. The musical talk is great reading and hearing WHY John did not allow the band in the Woodstock film is worth the reading. One listen to how much the drums speed up and are off makes me realize he simply did not wish to embarrass himself and his band! To close, I wish to thank John Fogerty for this book, and his memories of the Delta spirit he and all of us should know and love! Enjoyable to the max. Good luck to him at 70!
dirtlane More than 1 year ago
John Fogerty is a very talented musician. His creation was stolen from him. I can understand his anger and hurt. I appreciate John sharing his words, music and story with us. I think John realizes how many people he has touched through his music and how much we missed him.