John Fogerty Says Writing His Revealing 'Fortunate Son' Memoir 'Was a Lot Harder Than I Ever Imagined'
John Fogerty had to be talked into writing his revealing new memoir -- Fortunate Son: My LIfe, My Music, which publishes on Tuesday.
"The push, or the incentive, really came from my wife (and manager) Julie," Fogerty tells Billboard. "I don't know that I would've kept at it had it been only my idea. The process was certainly a lot harder than I ever imagined. Growing up I'd see all these people on Johnny Carson, 'So and so has a book, this athlete has a book, that movie star has a book' and all that. It's an event in your life to do something like that -- but it wasn't easy."
It was, however, cathartic. Fortunate Son balances both hard times, including his parents' divorce when he was young, and difficulties in his personal adult life, with the joy of making music -- and having abundant hits with Creedence Clearwater Revival. He not surprisingly dives deep into CCR's inner-workings and particularly the conflicts with the other band members and with Fantasy Records and its late founder Saul Zaentz. The book (which Billboard exclusively excerpted) is particularly detailed about the "betrayal" Fogerty felt when the other band members sold their voting rights over to Zaentz after the group dissolved during the early '70s and his subsequent battles with Zaentz (who unsuccessfully sued Fogerty for essentially plagiarizing himself on his 1984 hit "Old Man Down the Road") and with CCR mates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford over their Creedence Clearwater Revisited band.
"We were so naive and gullible and thinking that we were giving our word and we were gonna honor our word for the rest of eternity. And, boy, at different moments in time when other members of the band and/or Saul started breaking that word, in my real life it was a shock, and it had such a devastating effect on me," Fogerty says. "Looking back now, it's just so easy for people to lie if something's not written down and signed in some sort of document. It sounds kinda silly, I know, but I was relying on everybody's word because we were a rock'n'roll band and not IBM or something like that. It was almost a romantic flight of fancy; 'We don't need a contract. We have each other's word!' (laughs) I mean, when you're 20, that sounds really grand; when you're 70 you go, 'Yeah, that's probably not gonna work out...'"
Fogerty and Cook and Clifford are, in fact, embroiled in lawsuits against each other, each side claiming the other has violated an agreement they reached during the mid-'90s that allows Creedence Clearwater Revisited. "It sure looks like it's gonna be like that forever," Fogerty says. "I'm certainly not surprised anymore by the behavior or Doug and Stu anymore than I would've been surprised if Saul was still alive and he came up with some new wrinkle to throw at me tomorrow."
For his part, Cook calls the lawsuits "a business dispute" and is fully expecting "to get slammed" throughout Fortunate Son. "I don't expect him to be nice to anybody," the bassist says. "A book like that has to have some fireworks in it. He's already expressed his unhappiness with the guys who were holding him back many times since his comeback in '97, or whenever it was, when he started singing the (CCR) songs again. There's an undertone of anger that I don't understand anymore after all these years. I just hope he spells my name right..."
Fogerty, however, doesn't want Fortunate Son to be perceived as bitter or one-dimensional. "I really want people to see my whole life," he explains. "I don't want people to be going, 'Oh, John's just gonna be talking about all that (CCR) stuff,' 'cause that really was not my intent. But when we really started talking seriously about a book, I would say to myself, 'Yeah, I'm gonna be very honest. I'm not gonna hide anything. I'm gonna tell my whole life. I'm gonna tell everything that happened.' I couldn't tell everything, obviously, but what's there is honest, and there's a lot more to it than just that stuff."
With the book ready to come out Fogerty has returned to his preferred mode of writing -- songs, including working on a follow-up to 2013's Wrote a Song For Everyone. "I've noticed that just quite recently here I've begun to gather my tools to get things done in a musical way rather than a literary way, so it looks like I'm getting ready to write some music," he confirms. "I don't like to say, 'Yeah, I'm gonna do this, I'm gonna do that.' But having this urgent deadline and being duty-bound to do this book kind of pushed everything else that might be a little more vague -- for instance, writing a new song -- to the side. But now it feels like I'm coming back to it."
Meanwhile, Fogerty is getting ready for another new adventure -- playing in Sin City. He recently announced an eight-show residency starting Jan. 8 at the Venetian Theatre inside the Venetian Las Vegas casino and hotel, which will, like his most tours, focus on material from the three albums CCR released during 1969. Nevertheless, the idea of Vegas was initially a bit of a stretch for Fogerty.
"I haven't always felt that Las Vegas was the place I wanted to go," he admits. "When you're a young rock'n'roll you sort of think it's a place for older people, my parents' or my grandparents' music. What do I care about that? And I know in the back of my mind there was a big part of me that when I think of Vegas I would think of fat Elvis, and that was not a very inspirational picture to me. But I think the world has changed, and you do not have to approach playing in Vegas that way, so I'm really looking forward to it."