In-Fighting Wrecks Creedence’s Rock Hall Induction

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Jan. 12, 1993, featured a pair of bands that hadn’t played together in more than 20 years. It worked out much better for one than the other.

Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival were both first-ballot inductees at the first ceremony held on the West Coast, at Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel. Other inductees that night included Ruth Brown, the Doors, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, Etta James, Van Morrison (a no-show, though he sent a letter that was read) and Sly and the Family Stone. It also marked the first time the ceremony featured inductees playing their own sets rather than the ad hoc all-star jams that had closed the seven previous events at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Well-known acrimony had marked the ends of Cream and Creedence, in 1968 and 1972 respectively, and there was both anticipation and apprehension about bringing these band members together again. No one knew if it was headed for the kind of “fuck them” moment Jeff Beck had with the Yardbirds the previous year, or if there would be the kind of friendlier, albeit uneasy, truces that Simon & Garfunkel and the Four Seasons engineered in 1990.

Maybe someone would avoid the whole thing, like Paul McCartney when the Beatles were inducted. Or perhaps they’d go off on a Mike Love-style rant, when he used the Beach Boys induction to slam a ballroom’s worth of his peers and challenge the McCartney-less “Mop Tops” to a battle of the bands.

For Cream, fears of rancor proved unfounded, though all three members acknowledged there were fears. Eric Clapton, who’d already been inducted with the Yardbirds, told the crowd that wise counsel from a friend put him at ease: “Robbie Robertson pointed out that minor and major miracles take place in here. It deeply moved me. I … learned that a lot can be gained by coming here tonight. A lot has been gained. I’ve been reunited with two people that I love very dearly. It’s very moving.”

Watch John Fogerty Perform ‘Green River’ at 1993’s Ceremony

Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker got together the night before the ceremony to rehearse at the Power Plant Studios in Los Angeles. It was the first time they’d played together in 25 years, but the chemistry was clearly still there. At the induction, they tore through a set that included “Sunshine of Your Love,” their signature rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign.”

“It was unexpectedly magical,” the late Bruce told this writer a couple of years later. “I think we were a little older and we understood better what we could do when we’re together. It also gave us a sense that there may be more to do.” Cream later reunited again for a series of shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall – where they’d last played in 1968 – and at Madison Square Garden in New York, yielding a live album and video.

But then there was Creedence Clearwater Revival. The legendary group’s Rock Hall induction is certainly one of the saddest in history.

Lingering animosities and unhealed wounds, as well as some fresher issues, not only prevented CCR from reuniting on stage but led John Fogerty to flip off his bandmates by playing a three-song set of songs (“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Green River,” “Born on the Bayou”) with an all-star band that included Robertson, Bruce Springsteen – who made the induction speech – Benmont Tench, Jim Keltner and Don Was.

Fogerty maintained in subsequent interviews and his 2015 memoir Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music that he made it clear to Rock Hall organizers that he would not be willing to play again with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford (as well as his late older brother Tom Fogerty’s son Jeff) that night.

“What I did tell them was that at the end, when everybody’s onstage, jamming, if we all happen to be onstage, that’s fine,” wrote Fogerty, who’d been a regular at previous ceremonies and inducted Ricky Nelson in 1987. “I’m just not going to stand on a stage with those people, three in a row, play our songs, and be presented as a band. … I also made it very clear that if I didn’t play at all, that was fine too.”

Watch the CCR Acceptance Speeches at 1993’s Ceremony

Fogerty was particularly bitter that the others had sold their rights to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s music to Fantasy Records executive Saul Zaentz, giving Fogerty’s nemesis and “worst enemy” control over the music. He was also angry they did not help to defend him when Zaentz sued Fogerty for self-plagiarism over his 1984 hit “The Old Man Down the Road.”

As for the all-star band, Fogerty credited event organizers with the idea: “After I made it clear that I wasn’t going to play with Stu and Doug, the Hall of Fame came back to me with another way of looking at it: They wanted the songs to be heard, so they proposed getting other people – including Bruce and Robbie.”

Cook and Clifford said all of that was news to them when they arrived in Los Angeles. Cook told this reporter a few years later that when the band was informed about its induction “we asked if we were going to be able to play. They said, ‘Yeah, someone will contact you.'” He and Clifford were subsequently told that plans had changed and it would instead be a jam, “a loose thing” at the end of the show.

Clifford went to the ballroom to check out which drum kit would be available on the day of the ceremony, only to be told by a stage tech that Creedence would not be performing and that Fogerty had been rehearsing for a month with the other players. “They were going to be playing Creedence songs while we were supposed to sit in the audience during our induction ceremony, our night,” Cook said. “This had all been engineered behind our back.”

Cook and Clifford confronted Fogerty that afternoon, and the drummer remembered Fogerty telling them: “I don’t like you. You didn’t help me get out of my contract [with Fantasy] 25 years ago,” Clifford said. “He’s ranting and raving, screaming at us. I wanted to punch him.” Fogerty, meanwhile, wrote that he “wanted to be very clear about my intentions and their expectations. I told them, ‘Considering what you have done, I will not play with you.'”

Watch John Fogerty Perform ‘Born on the Bayou’ at 1993’s Ceremony

All three men maintained decorum during the acceptance speeches, but Cook, Clifford and Tom Fogerty’s family walked out when Fogerty and company began playing. “It was a cold and selfish thing to do – but that’s John,” Clifford said. Both Cook and Clifford also found some irony in the fact that Cream, a band with a similarly rancorous past, was able to pull off a successful reunion that night.

Fogerty, for his part, noted that Cook and Clifford knew what was going on before the ceremony, so they “were playing a role that they had concocted. … They acted to the public like they were victims, playing for sympathy! It was phony,” he wrote. “They still pretended to be shocked – as if they were pure as the driven snow.” Clifford and Cook wrote to all parties concerned afterward but only heard back from Springsteen, who they said apologized.

More conflict lay ahead for the former bandmates: Cook and Clifford launched the similarly named offshoot band Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, prompting Fogerty to file suit. The group was briefly re-christened Cosmo’s Factory (after CCR’s 1970 album) until the courts ruled in their favor.

Fogerty began to make some conciliatory comments during the ’10s and teased the idea of playing with Cook and Clifford again, but nothing came of it. “Maybe 20, 25 years ago, 10 years ago even, it might have worked,” Clifford said. “Now it’s just way too late.”

Cook and Clifford announced the end of Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 2019, citing age and a desire to focus on other things. All parties are part of a shared limited-liability corporation, however, which oversees projects such as 2022’s Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall release.

Bands That Reunited Without Their Lead Singer

Getting the band back together has become a rock ’n’ roll cliché, yet it remains a difficult task for some.

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