I’ve never been very tempted to pay a huge premium for front-row seats at a concert, but I have seriously entertained the idea of spending $195 each to snag a couple VIP seats at John Fogerty’s Freedom Fest concert. It’s kind of personal.
Tuesday, the Freedom Fest folks announced that Fogerty was the headlining act for this year’s event, the 10th and final in a series to honor military veterans and raise money for organizations that help them. I can’t think of another press conference I’ve covered where my jaw dropped so obviously, unless it was the time in 1984 Walter Mondale announced Geraldine Ferraro would be his running mate. (Yes, I’m that old.)
Fogerty’s voice and the songs he gave us with Creedence Clearwater Revival have fascinated me since before my age reached double digits. The first album I can recall listening to over and over again is CCR’s “Cosmo’s Factory,” with its whimsical cover photo and collection of 11 songs that all seemed like “hits” to me.
Fogerty wrote seven of the songs, and six of those are all-time classics as far as I’m concerned: “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” “Run Through the Jungle,” “Up Around the Bend,” “Travelin’ Band,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain” and “Long as I Can See the Light.” The album opens with Fogerty’s “Ramble Tamble,” a seven-minute guitar rave-up that blew my young mind — I had only heard three-minute AM radio pop nuggets until then.
The album also includes the Marvin Gaye cover, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” another classic, stretched out with enough six-string heroics to give disc jockey’s a good bathroom break if they played the album version.
And “Cosmo’s Factory” had three other great rootsy covers: a faithful cover of Elvis Presley’s version of “My Baby Left Me,” Roy Orbison’s “Ooby Dooby” and Bo Diddley’s “Before You Accuse Me.” The intro to that last one was the first blues guitar lick I ever learned to play.
That album meant so much to me, I’ve included the whole thing on every digital music player I’ve ever owned, and several of the songs have been mainstays of my morning workout playlist.
I loved CCR’s other albums, too, and playing them didn’t bother my folks like Iron Butterfly (first album I ever bought — mainly for the drum solo on “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida”). Just CCR’s recorded works might be enough to make me want to pay the big bucks to get an up-close view of Fogerty. But Creedence Clearwater Revival also was my first concert.
Yes, I’m that old.
Actually, I was pretty young when I saw CCR at the Met Center in Bloomington, Minn., along with Freddie King and Tony Joe White. It was on my 12th birthday. Best. Birthday. Ever. (Although the party at Shakey’s Pizza Parlour at which future Minnesota Twins first baseman Kent Hrbek, then my neighbor, was one of my party guests was pretty cool, too).
My father accompanied me to the CCR concert, and at the time, he was fairly new to the unenviable job of fathering me. My parents had divorced when I was 7 or 8, and Dave was my new and improved father. I suspect I was not making it easy for Dave to be my father, and my astute parents must have noticed my love for CCR, so the concert was a brilliant stroke of luck, a way to build a bridge between us.
And it worked. It was a Friday night (I looked it up), but it was still a work night for Dave, who was running his own business, a Sinclair service station and repair garage, on top of being Dad to me and my four younger siblings. I don’t think he ever scored any medals from his time in the Army — he was a truck mechanic stationed in Germany and narrowly missed going to Vietnam — but there should be a special medal for any man who marries a woman with five young children.
The details of the concert are kind of a blur — I remember we sat to the side of the stage, the side where Fogerty stood, cowboy hat perched on his head. And I remember that Dave got a big laugh when he went to the bathroom and overhead a younger CCR fan ask his buddy, “Have you ever seen so many old people in your life?”
Dave considered himself to still be young at the time, I guess, although at the time I’m sure I thought his first concert must have been Mozart. (Yes, he was that old.)
And after that night, I felt old, too. I don’t think many of my peers had been to concerts yet. After the CCR show, I somehow felt a little more grown up, a little more special than I had before, a little less lost.
Dave and I have had our differences, of course, but how could I ever thank someone who was a father to me by choice and who gave me a treasured memory like that concert. Well, maybe I’ll just take him to that Fogerty concert.
Something tells me I should. The concert is on his birthday.
Rock on …
Randy Erickson covers arts and entertainment and county government for the La Crosse Tribune. Contact him at 608-791-8219 or firstname.lastname@example.org.