If anyone wonders whether El Cerrito's famous rock band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, continues to exert strong international appeal long after the group disbanded, Robert Aerts of Belgium has an answer.
He's one of a dozen devoted fans who traveled together from Europe and spent this past week in El Cerrito and environs searching out the houses, studios and other sites linked to the band.
The four-member band – John and Tom Fogerty along with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford – won renown with many recordings, including "Born on the Bayou," "Down on the Corner," "Proud Mary" and a number of others. Though they broke apart in less than four years (1968-72), their legacy does not appear to be soon forgotten.
Asked yesterday to name the highlights of their trip, Aerts said, "The highlights? There were lots of them!"
From one of the group's two rented vans, he pulled out a light fixture that he salvaged from the studio at Berkeley's Fantasy Records where the group recorded. The timing was lucky – the studio is scheduled to be dismantled next week, he said.
Another stroke of good fortune was hooking up with Jeff Fogerty, son of the late Tom Fogerty, said Petra Schaap, originally from Amsterdam and now living in Belgium. Jeff took them places they could never have found on their own, she said.
"It was a real treat – the personal touch," said Schaap, for whom the word fan may be too mild.
She said she's been to 145 John Fogerty concerts in the past 15 years. She got a shock at the 100th, she said. Fogerty stopped and pointed her out, telling the crowd that this was the 100th time she had seen him. Schaap recalled his words, quoting him as adding, "There's only one person who's seen me more than that, and that's myself."
Some places in El Cerrito weren't hard to find: the childhood home of John and Tom Fogerty, later Fogerty family homes, Portola Middle School, El Cerrito High. Portola was where the band began in 1959 as "The Blue Velvets" with John Fogerty on guitar, Cook on piano and Clifford on drums. Tom Fogerty joined later, and the group became the "Golliwogs" for a period before it found its fame as Creedence Clearwater Revival.
More difficult for the fans from Europe was finding some of the spots shown in photos on album and record covers. Where is or was the picnic table that John Fogerty sat on in the photo on the back of his solo album, Blue Ridge Rangers? The album's from 1973. The table could be long gone, but there's a sizable rock that hasn't moved.
Jeff Fogerty knew where it was, but it took an ardous hike around Lake Anza on trails that were narrow and through mud for the group to get there. John Fogerty and the photograher reached the spot more easily. "They got there by boat," said Jeff, who now lives in Brentwood. The boat too is shown in the photo.
And what about the tree shown in a famous promo shot of the four young musicians? Tilden? Indian Rock? They couldn't find it.
After their seven days in the Bay Area, the 12 Creedence fans – Aerts, Schaap, eight from Germany and one from Switzerland – head down to Hollywood and Los Angeles today, Friday, to see Creedence sites there before returning home, Aerts said.
The embedded YouTube video on this article shows some members of the group doing an impromptu performance of "Proud Mary" during their visit to El Cerrito High on Feb. 8.