(ran GB edition)
Long before he began recording his new album, Blue Moon Swamp, John Fogerty made a series of pilgrimages to the Mississippi Delta.
"I would go down there and stay seven or eight days and come home," the former leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival said in a telephone interview from his home in Los Angeles.
"I was basically trying to find this mythical place called the Delta. All my life I've heard about the Mississippi Delta and Delta blues, but there's really no map, no borderline. So it was all kind of hit-and-miss."
Seeking a connection with the music that inspired his own songs _ Proud Mary, Green River, Bad Moon Rising, Who'll Stop the Rain and Fortunate Son _ Fogerty strolled through graveyards where the legendary bluesmen were buried and visited their haunts.
"I was chasing ghosts and doing a lot of reading and a lot of looking," Fogerty, 52, said of his journeys.
"The region is so rich with people who went on to have really legendary and influential careers."
Although he is a native of Berkeley and grew up in Northern California, Fogerty loved rural Southern blues as a teenager. When he began making his own music in the late '50s, he incorporated those tastes into his songs without thinking about it.
"While growing up as a middle-class white kid, I heard bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and Jimmy Reed. The music was always hovering in the back of my mind," he said.
In between journeys to the Mississippi Delta, Fogerty taught himself to play bottleneck guitar and dobro, a type of guitar with a large, circular metal resonator under the bridge.
"The dobro was a total mystery to me," he said. "So I got myself some videotapes. I was the perfect candidate for this teaching methodology, because I'm already a musician, I'm already a guitar player and I didn't have to learn how to tune.
"But in a lot of ways I was just a naive beginner. It took three years to get where I could make a sound that was actually pleasing."
Finally, Fogerty began work on Blue Moon Swamp, his first solo album in 11 years. Fogerty played all acoustic and electric guitars, as well as dobro, lap steel, electric sitar, mandolin, Farfisa organ and Irish bouzouki. Guest musicians included drummer Kenny Aronoff, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Chad Smith, Booker T. and the MGs' Duck Dunn, gospel group the Fairfield Four and family vocal group the Waters.
"I just wanted to make a really good rock 'n' roll record," he said. "I spent four years or more writing songs and finally I said, "Okay, now I'm going to make this record.' "
Providing Fogerty with inspiration was his wife, Julie Kramer. Fogerty dedicated Joy of My Life, the first love song he has written, to the woman he married in 1991.
"That's my favorite song that I've written. I don't know that it's my best song, but it's the one that I'm most proud of because (love) was missing from my life for so long," he said.
Other songs on the album will sound familiar to longtime fans of Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival, which disbanded in 1972.
The idea for A Hundred and Ten in the Shade came to Fogerty one day while he sat alongside a dirt road.
"I could hear the whole thing in my head," he said. "It's moments like that that make you feel privileged to be a musician. When a song becomes complete in your mind, it's better than anything you could do on stage or in the studio."
Another song, Southern Streamline, took a lot longer to complete.
"I went to pick up my daughter after a slumber party and just the first line came to me," Fogerty said. "I imagined a song with a semigospel feel, but one day I started picking a guitar with it and said, "Oh, my God, this is a picker's song.'
Hot Rod Heart might be the perfect road song.
"It just sounds like a driving song," he said. "I can imagine being out in the desert at night."
At least half of Fogerty's show, however, will be devoted to the songs he sang as leader of Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the most popular bands in rock 'n' roll history.
For decades, Fogerty refused to perform the Creedence songs because Berkeley-based Fantasy Records owned the publishing rights. Fogerty has been embroiled in a series of legal battles with Fantasy and his former bandmates, who recently toured as Creedence Clearwater Revisited using a new singer.
"I hate that. It's just stupid. It's such a bring-down," Fogerty said of the spinoff group.
Fogerty won an injunction against Creedence Clearwater Revisited for using any form of the original group's name, but a court has since granted a stay of that injunction. Meanwhile, Fogerty is suing the group for a share of the profits from its performances.
"America doesn't understand rock 'n' roll bands, but they do understand business. So if I say, "Look, I'm at least entitled to my share of this thing, maybe that will keep them from pulling it off financially,'
" Fogerty said.
His current touring band includes drummer Aronoff, bassist Bob Glaub (who played on the album) and guitarists Michael Canipe and Johnny Lee Schell.
Fogerty will play the CCR songs as people remember them.
"Most people have never seen me or anyone else do these songs," Fogerty said. "After waiting 30 years, I think they have a right to hear them sound the way they should have in the first place."