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It was 50 years ago this week that four guys from El Cerrito released their breakthrough album, the first of three chartbusters that year alone from Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The album “Bayou Country” hit stores on Jan. 5, 1969, powered by the album’s hit single “Proud Mary,” still considered the song that defined the Creedence sound and for a time made swamp rock the most popular pop music genre in the United States.
Longtime San Francisco Chronicle pop music critic Joel Selvin will give a free talk on “El Cerrito’s Contribution to Rock” at a free program hosted by the El Cerrito Historical Society at 2 p.m. Jan. 20 at the El Cerrito Community Center, 7007 Moeser Lane.
The album was the band’s second, following its eponymous debut release in summer 1968 that reached the charts with a psychedelic remake of the 1950s song “Suzie Q.”
But members John and Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford had been school classmates and performing together since the late 1950s, first as the Blue Velvets and then as the Golliwogs, before launching the distinctive Creedence style.
“‘Bayou Country’ is not only the album that defined the sound of Creedence, it was the band’s first masterpiece,” Selvin wrote in the liner notes to the CD reissue of the album. “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.”
That same year CCR also released the albums “Green River” and “Willy and the Poor Boys,” both achieving greater sales success even as creative divisions were growing within the band. By 1970, Creedence was even outselling the Beatles, but older brother Tom Fogerty left CCR in 1971 and the group disbanded in 1972.
Selvin, who attended recording sessions for CCR’s final album, will discuss John Fogerty’s songwriting, the band’s rise to fame and its troubled end that still generates turmoil among surviving members (Tom Fogerty died in 1990), and its ongoing legacy.
The talk will follow a 20-minute Historical Society business meeting. Refreshments will follow.
For more information, check the El Cerrito Historical Society’s website at www.elcerritohistoricalsociety.org.