That Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inauguration ceremony on Jan. 12, 1993, featured a pair of bands that hadn’t played together in more than 20 years. It worked much better for one than the other.
Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival were both inducted at the first ceremony held on the West Coast at Los Angeles’ Century Plaza Hotel. Other inductees that night included Ruth Brown, the DoorsFrankie Lymon and the Teens, Etta James, Van Morrison (a failure to appear, although he sent a letter which was read) and Sly and the Family Stone. It also marked the first time the ceremony featured inmates playing their own sets instead of the ad hoc all-star jams that had closed the seven previous events at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City.
Familiar acrimony had marked the ends of Cream and Creedence in 1968 and 1972 respectively, and there was both anticipation and fear of bringing these band members back together. No one knew if it was headed for that kind of thing”fuck themmoment Jeff Beck had with Yardbirds the previous year, or if there would be the kind of kinder, if uneasy, truths which Simon & Garfunkel and Four Seasons developed in 1990.
Maybe someone would avoid it all, e.g Paul McCartney when The Beatles was deployed. Or maybe they would leave on one Mike Love-style rant when he used Beach Boys induction to slam a ballroom’s worth of his peers and challenge the McCartney-less “Mop Tops” to a battle of the gangs.
For Cream, the fear of mockery proved unfounded, although all three members acknowledged that there were fears. Eric Claptonwho had already been inducted into the Yardbirds, told the crowd that sage advice from a friend reassured him: “Robbie Robertson pointed out that minor and major miracles happen here. It touched me deeply. I … learned that much can be gained by coming here tonight. A lot has been won. I have been reunited with two people whom I love very much. It’s very moving.”
Watch John Fogerty perform ‘Green River’ at the 1993 ceremony
Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker met the night before the ceremony to rehearse at Power Plant Studios in Los Angeles. It was the first time they had played together in 25 years, but the chemistry was clearly still there. At the induction, they tore through a set that included “Sunshine of Your Love,” their signature rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads” and Albert King’s “Born Under a Bad Sign.”
“It was unexpectedly magical,” the late Bruce told this writer a few years later. “I think we were a little older and we understood better what we could do when we’re together. It also gave us a sense that maybe there’s more to do.” Cream later reunited again for a series of shows at London’s Royal Albert Hall – where they had last played in 1968 – and at New York’s Madison Square Garden, resulting in a live album and video.
But then there was Creedence Clearwater Revival. The legendary group’s Rock Hall induction is certainly one of the saddest in history.
Ongoing animosity and unhealed wounds, as well as some recent issues, not only prevented CCR from reuniting on stage, but led John Fogerty flipping off his bandmates by playing a three-song set (“Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Green River,” “Born on the Bayou”) with an all-star band that included Robertson, Bruce Springsteen – who gave the introductory speech – Benmont Tench, Jim Keltner and Don Was.
Fogerty maintained in subsequent interviews and his 2015 memoir Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music that he made it clear to the Rock Hall organizers that he would not be willing to play again with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford (as well as his late older brother Tom Fogerty’s son Jeff) that night.
“What I told them was that at the end, when everyone is on stage jamming, if we all happen to be on stage, that’s fine,” wrote Fogerty, who had been a regular at previous ceremonies and inducted Ricky Nelson in 1987. I I’m just not going to stand on a stage with those people, three in a row, play our songs and be introduced as a band … I also made it very clear that if I didn’t play at all, I was also fine.”
Watch the CCR Acceptance Speeches at the 1993 ceremony
Fogerty was particularly bitter that the others had sold their rights to Creedence Clearwater Revival’s music to Fantasy Records executive Saul Zaentz, giving Fogerty’s nemesis and “worst enemy” control over the music. He was also angry that they did not help defend him when Zaentz sued Fogerty for self-plagiarism over his 1984 hit “The Old Man Down the Road.”
As for the all-star band, Fogerty credited the event organizers with the idea: “After I made it clear that I didn’t want to play with Stu and Doug, the Hall of Fame came back to me with a different way of looking at it. : They wanted the the songs needed to be heard, so they suggested getting other people – including Bruce and Robbie.”
Cook and Clifford said all of this was news to them when they arrived in Los Angeles. Cook told this reporter a few years later that when the band was informed of its introduction, “we asked if we would be able to play. They said, ‘Yeah, somebody will contact you.'” He and Clifford subsequently got knowing that plans had changed and it would instead be a jam, “a loose thing” at the end of the show.
Clifford went to the ballroom to check which drum set would be available on the day of the ceremony, only to be told by a stage technician that Creedence would not be performing and that Fogerty had been rehearsing for a month with the other players. “They had to play Creedence songs while we had to sit in the audience during our induction ceremony, our night,” Cook said. “It had all been engineered behind our backs.”
Cook and Clifford confronted Fogerty that afternoon, and the drummer recalled Fogerty telling them, “I don’t like you. You didn’t help me get out of my contract [with Fantasy] 25 years ago,” Clifford said. “He roars and bellows and screams at us. I wanted to beat him.” Fogerty, meanwhile, wrote that he “wanted to be very clear about my intentions and their expectations. I told them, ‘Considering what you’ve done, I’m not going to play with you’.”
Watch John Fogerty perform ‘Born on the Bayou’ at the 1993 ceremony
All three men maintained their custom during the acceptance speeches, but Cook, Clifford and Tom Fogerty’s family walked out as Fogerty and company began to play. “It was a cold and selfish thing to do – but that’s John,” Clifford said. Both Cook and Clifford also found some irony in the fact that Cream, a band with a similarly horrific past, were able to pull off a successful reunion that night.
Fogerty, for his part, noted that Cook and Clifford knew what was going on before the ceremony, so they were “playing a part that they had made up… They were acting in front of the public as if they were victims, playing for sympathy! It was fake,” he wrote. “They still pretended to be shocked—as if they were pure as the driven snow.” Clifford and Cook wrote to all concerned afterwards, but heard back only from Springsteen, for whom they said they apologized.
More conflict lay ahead for the former bandmates: Cook and Clifford launched the similarly named offshoot band Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, prompting Fogerty to file suit. The group was briefly renamed Cosmo’s Factory (after CCR’s 1970 album) until the courts ruled them right.
Fogerty began to make some conciliatory comments during the 10s and teased the idea of playing with Cook and Clifford again, but nothing came of it. “Maybe 20, 25 years ago, 10 years ago even, it might have worked,” Clifford said. “Now it’s just way too late.”
Cook and Clifford announced the end of Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 2019, citing age and a desire to focus on other things. However, all parties are part of a shared limited liability company that oversees projects like 2022’s Creedence Clearwater Revival at the Royal Albert Hall release.
Bands that reunited without their lead singer
Getting the band back together has become a rock ‘n’ roll cliché, but it’s still a difficult task for some.