40 Years Ago: Tom Fogerty Releases ‘Zephyr National’
By the time Creedence Clearwater Revival split in 1972, John Fogerty had emerged as the voice and driving creative force of the group. But Creedence started out as his brother Tom's band, and in the years immediately following his 1970 departure from the lineup, it was Tom Fogerty's solo career that most consistently maintained the old CCR spirit.
"John and I used to collaborate a lot in the beginning," Fogerty reflected in a later interview, lamenting that "it got to be pretty much a one-man train, and the thing that really started to bug me was that everyone was giving John credit for everything, as if we were just standing in the shadows or something."
"As it evolved as John's show I had to keep swallowing my ego, and it kept coming back," he explained during a 1972 interview with Disc and Music Echo. "But I didn't leave and kept putting it off because I'd put so much time into that group -- years of my life." Still, he mostly refrained from pointing fingers after the split because, as he put it, "I want to make it on my music in the future, not on a public mound of bitterness" -- an attitude he backed up with a torrid two-year creative burst that saw him releasing four solo LPs in a two-year span.
Unfortunately, Fogerty's creative output wasn't matched by his sales, and by the time he released his third solo album, 'Zephyr National,' in April of 1974, he was fighting an extreme uphill battle on the charts -- a situation not helped by his refusal to tour (as he told Disc and Music Echo, "I made a decision that I wanted to raise a family and be around, so I will") and a generally soft-spoken demeanor that conspired to keep him out of the spotlight enjoyed by his younger brother. Although Tom's Creedence royalties ensured a comfortable living that kept him from resorting to desperate measures in pursuit of more hits, his dwindling solo fortunes must have been at least somewhat discouraging.
All of which might help explain why 'Zephyr National' found Tom recording with his old bandmates for the first time in years. The album's seventh track, 'Joyful Resurrection,' included appearances from Creedence rhythm section Stu Cook and Doug Clifford, a song that also reportedly includes a lead guitar contribution from John. Although John's said to have tracked his performance separately from the others, 'Resurrection' -- like much of the rest of 'Zephyr National' -- is chock full of that CCR sound, and should have hit the spot for fans who were still getting over the band's demise.
As Clifford pointed out in a 2009 interview, any similarities between Tom's solo records and the band he left behind were purely natural. "Tom Fogerty was the original lead singer with us before we were Creedence and it was his dream, he brought us along, and once he saw John’s talent he let the young man go," Clifford recalled. "But then after that was done, John wouldn’t allow Tom to sing or submit any songs or anything; he cut him off completely, which we disagreed with."
Perhaps unsurprisingly, John disagreed. Speaking with the Guardian in 2000, he shrugged, "The best I can say in Tom's case is he was the older brother, and the younger brother had a lot more talent, therefore he was jealous even to a greater degree than the other two in Creedence Clearwater Revival."
Whatever the case, recording 'Joyful Resurrection' didn't heal the deep wounds between the Fogerty brothers -- and releasing it didn't reverse Tom's commercial slide, which continued with his fifth solo outing, 'Myopia,' released in Nov. 1974. Although he continued to record into the '80s while John's solo career slumbered in self-imposed exile, nothing ever really caught on the way Creedence did; when Tom passed away at the age of 48 on Sept. 6, 1990 after contracting AIDS through a tainted blood transfusion, his most recent release was six years old.
Fogerty's passing added yet another sad chapter to a story with more than its share of them, and sadder still, his death wasn't enough to stop the decades of animosity between John and his surviving former bandmates, who have continued to duke it out in the press (and in the courts). Still, even if Tom's solo records never reached the audience they deserved, his low-key post-CCR career seemed perfectly in keeping with his humble ambitions.
"I have a lot to learn musically, and recording is probably the quickest way to get there," he told Disc and Music Echo. "I have no intention of competing with anyone guitar-wise -- I appreciate all sorts of people, from Eric Clapton to Jose Feliciano. I don't consider myself a good musician yet -- just learning guitar alone is enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life. I like to fool around with the piano, but I want to be a songwriter, and be really good."