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Born on the Bayou

Background

"Born on the Bayou" was the B-side of “Proud Mary”, the first 45 rpm single Creedence Clearwater Revival released in 1969. It also opens the Bayou Country album. The song was going to be the first original single of the band, but radio went with “Proud Mary”. 

The single was recorded at RCA Studios in Los Angeles with engineer Hank McGill. The Bayou Country sessions in October 1968 were the only ones Creedence Clearwater ever held at RCA. After cutting the "Bad Moon Rising" backed with "Lodi" single the band recorded the following releases at Wally Heider Recording in San Francisco until June 1971.   
 
John Fogerty recalls the song started to develop during a quick soundcheck at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco about spring 1968: "I plugged in to my amp and I started hearing an E7th chord with that swampy vibrato that I was making on my little Kustom amp. It just turned me on to be standing there – I was so excited that I was playing in front of a real audience in San Francisco; I was just charged; and suddenly, I was inspired. I turned to the band and said “just start playing E”, and I started screaming at the top of my range, just a melody and vowel sounds and consonants. --- Then suddenly, right in the middle of having this burst of inspiration, it went silent. The stage manager had pulled the plug out of my amplifier. I looked at him and said, “Why’d you do that?”,  and he said, “Don’t worry about that, you’re not going anywhere anyhow.” --- I looked at him and said, “Not going anywhere? You give me a year, pal, and I’ll show ya who’s not goin’ somewhere!”" (John Fogerty on his official site in 1997).

Doug Clifford recalls the song started out as a jam at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles. "The guys had ordered new Kustom amps. --- They had tremendous treble, tremendous mid-range, and it made the guitar really stand out. The guys were trying out their new amps and I didn't have any toy. John's out there working with feedback, sorting that out. --- I just started out with that quarter-note beat that I played on Suzie Q but I changed the foot-pattern, and that was sort of the beginning on it." (Wayne Bryman, Interview with Doug Clifford, Discoveries, November 1988.)

On Bayou Country, John Fogerty shifted the focus from the semi-psychedelic moods of the first album to the mythic south and bayou. He created the Louisiana rural atmosphere by staring at the wall of his apartment in El Cerrito:

"The next time I was sitting in front of that little wall, I had that burst of inspiration on my mind. Right at that moment, it collided in my brain with the phrase, “born on the bayou”, and I just rolled with it. I pulled everything I knew about it – which wasn’t much, because I didn’t live there. Every bit of southern bayou information that had entered my imagination from the time I was born, it all collided in that meditation about that song. And I knew that sound and that story went together; I can’t tell you why. I was a kid, and I said, “This is powerful.” It’s like the first time you’ve been allowed to drink from the holy nectar of the gods, whatever that is."

Equipment

John Fogerty used a Gibson ES-175 on "Born on the Bayou." The E7 chord gave the song a strong Southern blues feel. The guitar setting for the intro is over-driven with amp tremolo on a slow setting. 

In the interview in Guitar Aficionado (July-August 2013), John Fogerty recalled the change of guitar before the sessions of Bayou Country: "We had made our first album, which was all Rickenbacker, and I found I wanted a guitar that I could tune down to D --- I had noticed that a lot of the old blues guys, like Leadbelly, did that, and I thought, Well, that’s a pretty cool sound. So my thinking was to buy a big box. So I went to a [Gibson ES-] 175.”

Stu Cook used a Rickenbacker 4001 bass.

Trivia

John Fogerty described hoodoo ("chasing down a hoodoo"): "Hoodoo is a magical, mystical, spiritual, non-defined apparition, like a ghost or a shadow, not necessarily evil, but certainly other-worldly. I was getting some of that imagery from Howlin' Wolf and Muddy Waters." 

Kenny Aronoff (who went on to become a regular drummer for John Fogerty in later years) talks about the first time he heard "Born on the Bayou" as a teenager reading his Incredible Hulk comic book, and he thought if the Hulk could sing it would sound just like that vocal performance. Even now, it does still seem to have been an incredible sound to have come out of 21 year-old from El Cerrito, CA.

Collector's notes

The "Proud Mary" b/w "Born on the Bayou" single was released with a similar cover sleeve in Germany, France and Italy. It was different from the one launched in Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Norway and Spain. The Belgian print had two different cover sleeves (Peter Koers, Green River, 1999).

Live versions

The first documented concert with “Born on the Bayou” in the set-list was held at Fillmore East in New York on October 11th, 1968. It was also the band's debut in the Big Apple. However, it's very likely that Creedence Clearwater performed the song earlier on their  weekly gig's at “Deno & Carlo's”. Stu Cook recalled in 1994 that most of the material on Bayou Country was tried out on the audience at this San Francisco club before hitting the studio. 

By summer 1969, “Born on the Bayou” had consolidated its position as Creedence Clearwater's concert opener. At “Woodstock Festival”, the performance suffered from the missing bass but it was fixed by the 2009 release of The 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collectors Edition Director's Cut 3DVD where the Woodstock version of the song was heard for the first time legally.

“Born on the Bayou” also appears on two Creedence Clearwater live albums: The Concert and Live in Europe. A concert version taped in London, UK, on September 28, 1971, was added to the 40th Anniversary Edition of Bayou Country as a bonus track in 2008.   

During his solo career, John Fogerty performed “Born on the Bayou” live for the first time at “Vets Rousing Welcome Home Concert” on July 4th, 1987. After delivering a couple of licks of "Old Man Down the Road," he switched to the intro of “Born on the Bayou”.   

Since he began regular touring in spring 1997, “Born on the Bayou” has remained a corner-stone of his concert. Fogerty opened his concerts regularly with the song until the beginning of the Deja Vu All Over Again Tour in fall 2004 after which the number was lifted a bit further in the set list.  

“Born on the Bayou”  appears on each of his three live DVDs: Premonition (1998), The Long Road Home (2006) and Comin' Down the Road (2009). 

In the movies

"Born on the Bayou" has been used in the following films:
  • Desperate Measures (1998)
  • Hard Target (1993)
  • Stop-Loss (2008)
  • The Expendables (2010)
  • The Return of Swamp Thing (1989)
  • The Waterboy (1998)
It's also  heard  in TV series Supernatural, episode Citizen Fang (2012).

Critical reception

"'Born On The Bayou' is a very bluesy thing which inspired the LP title. This contains some of John's best vocal work." -Ray Rezos, The Rolling Stone, March 1st, 1969.

"It's not just that "Born on the Bayou" announces that CCR has discovered its sound -- it reveals the extent of John Fogerty's myth-making. With this song, he sketches out his persona; it makes him sound as if he crawled out of the backwoods of Louisiana instead of being a native San Franciscan. --- "Born on the Bayou" is a magnificent piece of swamp-rock ---" -Thomas Erlewine, Allmusic.

"---a perfect meeting of swampy groove and Louisiana mythology." -The Uncut, February 2012. 

Fans' views

"Born on the Bayou is probably my ultimate all-time favorite Creedence song. If I had to choose one song to introduce CCR to someone, to best portray what CCR is for me, it'd have to be Born on the Bayou. It captures the essence of CCR. This song makes me feel invincible. It's a power song that I love to listen to when I feel beaten down by something. It's simply my song."

"To put it simply this song, along with Green River, defines Swamp Rock, plain and clear. And God Almighty how it rocks. Great, raw voice and guitar solos you are bound to mimic with your mouth."

"Quintessential Fogerty, both lyrically and musically.  Everything just fits together so well - the gritty vocals combined with the vivid swampy imagery and arguably the most original and complete Creedence band performance."

"Best ever written guitar-solo. I say it´s written, because Fogerty plays it the same way every time. Here´s very strong voice too."

Legacy

In the internet in 2014, fans selected "Born on the Bayou" the 6th best song John Fogerty has recorded in 1959-2013.   

The 2013 remake

John Fogerty recorded a new version of the song alongside Kid Rock for his collaboration album Wrote A Song For Everyone that was released in May 2013. The version with Kid Rock premiered during the Super Bowl in February 2013.






Written by John C. Fogerty.


Recorded at Studio A, RCA Studios, Los Angeles, CA, USA, in October 1968.

Appears on "Proud Mary" b/w "Born on the Bayou" single and Bayou Country album. 

Released on January 5th, 1969 (album) and January 17th, 1969 (single).
 

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