℗ © 2014 Concord Music Group, Inc.
From the included liner notes by Joel Selvin:
Sweating out his National Guard duty in summer 1968, living in a tiny El Cerrito apartment with his wife and kids, John Fogerty developed insomnia. The tension was understandable. The band he belonged to with his older brother and two best friends from junior high faced a crossroads. His life and his dreams hung in the balance.
Although the group managed to nearly crack the Top Ten with "Susie Q" from the first Creedence Clearwater Revival album, the second single failed to see the sunny side of the Hot 100. He was afraid the band was going to fall off the face of the earth and he would have to go back to work at the car wash. He still played soldier every month, taking crap from the other weekend grunts as the hippie with the record on the radio. Bobby Kennedy was shot as John watched on late-night TV, and the stations showed the nightmare footage over and over.
He had already discovered the guitar riff during a sound check at the Avalon Ballroom, just pounding the delicious figure endlessly while the band stayed on the E chord. Slowly, in those quiet, lonely, desperate hours before the dawn at his little apartment, he began to untangle "Born on the Bayou," "Proud Mary," and "Keep On Chooglin'" from the mists of Mark Twain books he never read in school and grainy black and white B movies of crocodile hunters in the dark Cajun swamps and Will Rogers playing a steamboat captain.
In his mind's ear, he heard the Mississippi jungle boogie of Bo Diddley and the muddy voice of Howlin' Wolf. He saw James Garner playing the riverboat gambler in Maverick. He felt the throbbing vibrato of Pops Staples's guitar and the supple soul of Booker T. & the MGs. He knew Elvis Presley and the yellow Sun Records. He was drinking from the Mississippi River, long a mythic force in America's history.
His discharge from the Army arrived and the pieces all started to fall in place. "Proud Mary" came together when he combined parts from different songs underway in his notebook, including one about a washerwoman named Mary. He began to link the songs he was writing to a mythical Deep South, a South this California kid had never seen, but could only imagine.
It was a deceptively simple set of material. In addition to the three major pieces, Fogerty also had a couple of suitable blues and a concert rouser under his belt with "Graveyard Train," "Penthouse Pauper," and "Bootleg." "Good Golly Miss Molly" was standard Creedence frat party fare and his ripping Little Richard impression was well practiced.
Recorded at the imposing RCA Studios in Hollywood, famous at the time as the place where the Rolling Stones made "Satisfaction," the basic tracks for Bayou Country, Creedence Clearwater Revival's second album, were cut by all four musicians playing together live. Fogerty finished the album by himself, overdubbing a few additional instrumental parts and all the vocals. He toyed with the lyrics to "Proud Mary" right up to just before he recorded them. He laid down a guitar solo he thought sounded as much as he could like Steve Cropper of the MGs.
Later, when you asked any of the other three members when did they know the band had made it, they all said the same thing: "The first time John played us 'Proud Mary.'" Fogerty himself has always said he knew he had written his best song almost as soon as he finished writing it.
Released just before DChristmas that year, the single of "Proud Mary" (with "Born on the Bayou" on the B side) simply exploded. With radio tip sheets noticing the record in the first weeks of the new year, it bolted to the top of the playlists across the country by February. It echoed out of every radio station in the country, out of record store windows, passing cars, neighbors' apartments. Bob Dylan declared it his favorite record of the year.
Life magazine ran a glowing review. Soul man Solomon Burke rushed a cover version into the r&b market. Creedence Clearwater Revival had arrived.
Bayou Country is not hte only album that defined the sound of Creedence, it was the band's first masterpiece. In a single, bold stroke, it announced Creedence Clearwater as a bright, vital force in rock and staked a place for what was yet to come.
John Fogerty - lead guitar, vocals
Tom Fogerty - rhythm guitar, background vocals
Stu Cook - bass, background vocals
Doug Clifford - drums, background vocals
Produced and Arranged by John Fogerty
Reissue produced by Chris Clough
Mastered by Paul Blakemore at CMG Mastering