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Old 19.03.2002, 20:18
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Part 1

John Fogerty is one of the greats, a true American legend who established his reputation in the late Sixties and earley seventies with Creedence Clearwater Revival. John's place in the rock and roll pantheon was recently reaffirmed on celebrated on his newest release, a live album of classic Creedence and Fogerty solo material entitled Premonition. To mark the occasion, John sat down with Guitar world, guitar in hand, to discuss his approach to riff-writing and demonstrate how he plays some of his greatest and most enduring compositions. A consummate gentleman, he peppered his discourse with appreciative references to his musical mentors, as well as gobs guitar playing wisdom and insights.

Fogerty begins our lesson by illustrating the bluesy riff from the memorable Creedense hit "Born On The Bayou." He explained: "I play the main riff in the 5th position E7. I really love the timbre og f that chord - the voicing, the sounds of the strings themselves. In the riff I pick out the individual notes: the third, the octave and the seventh, and let them ring together. For the high E's, I'm hitting both the open 1st string and the fretted 2nd string in unison. Those open strings in the riff give it that 'spooky' sound." He adds, "in certain contexts I really like lots of ringing open stringa for that spooky effect or a chiming sound. I'm the exact opposit, thogh, when I'm in my rock and roll rhythm mode - then I prefer the leaner, Chuck Berry approach or power chords.

"That riff and chord shape in 'Bayou' opened up a lot of poosibilities for me," Fogerty points out "I could jump around that E7 voicing and throw in my 'mystery chord.' I don't even know what it's my swamp chord. I flatten my ring finger on the 5th and 4th strings and flatten my pinky down on the 3rd and 2nd strings at the 7th fret. I see it as part of a D chord added to the E7 (E9sus4), and keep the 1st and 6th string open." He added, "I've used that chord for years; it's like a signature for me. It's all through 'Bayou' - especially the way I do it now. I play it like a little horn part that answers my singing." It's a typical rhythm pattern from "Born on the Bayou," in which Fogerty uses the E7 and the E9sus4 "mystery chord." "I originally played "Bayou" on a Rickenbacker 325, the little three-quarter-sized hollowbody John Lennon model. At the time I did'nt think I was able to play a 'man's guitar,' "laughs Fogerty. "I realized early thet I had small hands and therefore should play a short-scale guitar. It became a crutch because it was so much easier to bend strings and finger chords on that small neck.

I currently play a Rickenbacker 375 from the Eighties with a full-sized neck, hollow body, three pickups and a Bigsby whammybar," adds Fogerty, "It feeds back great for all stuff I do in *I put a spell on You' and 'Suzie Q.' "

Fogerty is highly conscious of his place in rock guitar's evolutionary continuum. "James Borton came up with the killer guitar riff for 'Suzie Q' for Dale Hawkins back in the Fifties," he says. "With Creedence, I imitated that riff even though the same vibe of the band was totally different." John illustrates his point first by playing the Burton version of the riff. "Burton has that constant low E going. He's driving the whole song with the guitar by stressing the main beats. My version was lighter, whit more space. The low E is there but it's mainly on the upbeats, working with the drums. Burton was cool, though. I used a lot of theбt style - thumping on the one bass note, not just one low note. It's a real rock and roll thing."

Fogerty continues with another Creedence classic, "Green River." In a way 'Geґreen River' is a variation of 'Suzie Q' " he says. " It's based on a similar fingering shapes in E7. I was very infatuated with Burton's playing and even amagined myself as a James Burton-like character in a rock and roll band. That's where the basic riff is coming from.

"I'm very riff-driven - both as a guitar player and a singer," John says. "A good example of that is in the song's chorus where I use a single-note blues riff to work with the vocals. It's based around an E7 shape at the 2nd fret. I bend the G on the 4th string in the melody almoste to G#, like a blues singer going for the emotional impact of that minor-major third. It blurs the distinction between pure major and minor sounds."This figure is somewhat unconventional that it's not in one of the normal "blues box" position and that John uses his pinky to fret and bend the G note on the 4th string.

John wrote and performed more than a few of his greatest songs and riffs with all his six of his guitar's strings detuned one whole step ( low to high: D G C F A D ). This practice of transposing all six strings down proportionaly is comparable to using a capo, exept everything sound in a lower key instaed of a higher key. "Proud Mary" is one of the songs John played in this tuning. "The fingering in the intro are all based on convenient moves between the chords," Fogerty explains as he performs. "That's why I fingerd the D(5) chord with my 1st and 2nd fingers - to efficiently get to the B in 2nd position. That big open G chord - what I've heard called 'Clarence White chord' - has a little move in it that I really like I lift the D and G notes on the 1st and 2nd strings to the open E and B notes to add a melody in the top part." He added "That's one thing that makes the guitar such a magical instrument. You can do very subtle things with your fingers to get different and personal sounds, shapes and nuances." In the early days, I had just one guitar and I'd have to retune between songs anstage," John recalls. " As soon as I could afford to, I bought a Gibson ES-175 with humbuckers that I used for the lower tuning. There was some logic there. Some people call it a 'Jazz box,' but to me it was a big acoustic guitar, and I was emulating rural country blues players. A lot of them tuned down and had that big sound I was after. I wanted that an electric so I got a big-bodied electric guitar. That's the guitar that I played 'Proud Mary' on." He adds, "The ES-175 was stolen outside the old Fantasy Studios building in Oakland, and I quickly replaced it with a Les Paul. It's evolved to the point where I always use my black Les Paul for that tuning. Nowadays, whenever you see me with that guitar, it's tuned down

End of Part 1
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