Rock Legend Fogerty Remembers Time In The Army
by U.S. Army Eric Pilgrim,
December 23, 2019
While marching back and forth in his Army uniform on a hot
Kentucky asphalt parade field in the spring of 1967, musical lyrics
began to dance around inside "future rock music legend" John
“It’s been an awful long time since I have
been home …”
What he recently described as a kind of transcendental
meditation, or delirium, would sweep over him during those long
hours marching at Fort Knox, a delirium that afforded him time to
think about his life, and his dreams —
“But you won't catch
me goin' back down there alone …”
September 17, 2019 - While
on his “John Fogerty: My 50-Year Trip” tour, Rock legend
John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival fame remembers a
brief period of time when he was stationed at Fort Knox,
Kentucky in 1967. (U.S. Army photo by Eric Pilgrim, Fort Knox)
More than 50 years later, Fogerty is celebrating a half-century
of powerful rock music he has created, music that critics often
agree helped shape the mindset of many young men and women during
and after the Vietnam War era. Before there was Credence Clearwater
Revival, however, there was a 20-year-old man trying to make his way
on a very different path.
“I was internationally unknown back then,” said Fogerty earlier
this month, during a short break in his “John Fogerty: My 50-Year
Trip” North American tour, including a stop in Louisville September
20, 2019 to perform in the Kentucky Fair and Expo Center at Bourbon
& Beyond 2019.
As a war in Vietnam was beginning to ramp up
in 1966, Fogerty walked into a recruiter’s office around the same
time his draft number came up. Whether as a draftee or volunteer, he
expected that he would be joining the military. When he left the
recruiter’s office, he signed on with the U.S. Army Reserve as a
“I was on active duty for six months, but I was
in the Reserves between 1966 and 1968,” said Fogerty.
after enlisting, John Fogerty (image of
left) went through basic training at Fort Bragg, North
Between his time at Fort Bragg and advanced individual training
at the Quartermaster School in Fort Lee, Virginia, he found himself
stationed at Fort Knox.
“It was pretty intense because this was right at the height of
the Vietnam War,” said Fogerty. “Every young man’s clock was running
As he talked about his time at Fort Knox, memories bubbled up to
“At various times, we had a kind of special guard duty for 24
hours straight,” said Fogerty. “We had to polish all our brass and
our boots were highly spit-shined. Your uniform had to be perfect.
We went to a different place where we were on for two hours and then
off for about eight.”
He said one particular guard duty shift left a mark on him.
“After I had been there only about five or 10 minutes, I had just
walked in, there were two or three guys crowded around this one
wall. They were looking at Elvis Presley’s signature – It said,
‘Elvis Presley ’58,’” said Fogerty. “I wish I’d had a camera. Back
in those days, we didn’t have phones with cameras in them.”
He remembered another time when he decided against going into
Louisville on a weekend pass. That same weekend was Kentucky Derby
weekend, and he gave a friend of his money to place a bet on a horse
in the race — a horse named Damascus.
“I had given my friend
$6 but I was always conservative, so I wanted him to make the safest
bet, which was for the horse to come in third,” said Fogerty.
Damascus did come in third, but Fogerty didn’t receive any prize
“He had bet on that horse to win,” said Fogerty,
Fogerty shares the Fort Knox alumni stage with
another musical great – 1950s rocker Buddy Knox. While stationed at
the installation in 1957, Knox was sent to the Ed Sullivan Show to
perform two of his big hits at that time.
watching that show.
“I saw him on TV wearing his military
uniform. He had a heck of a year in ’57. He was part of three
different singles that each sold a million,” said Fogerty. “He was
with a guy named Jimmy Bowen. On Jimmy Bowen’s record it reads,
‘Jimmy Bowen and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and you assume that was some
“Well, on Buddy Knox’s record, it reads, ‘Buddy
Knox and the Rhythm Orchids,’ and that meant the other person was
Jimmy Bowen. [Buddy Knox] had one of the biggest careers of anybody,
all in that year.”
While music has played a big role
throughout Fogerty’s life, he said no matter how far he travels to
perform for others, he is never far away from his military identity.
“Sometimes it shows up in ways you can identify, and you’re
really proud of that, especially personal discipline,” said Fogerty.
“At other times, it’s just part of what makes you you. I think
almost anybody who’s been in the military realizes that there’s a
certain amount of maturity you have. You can’t help it; you either
shape up or ship out — most of us choose to shape up.”
military experience is not one he shies away from admitting.
“Life is what it is so you can’t change it, but I certainly am
proud of that time,” said Fogerty. “There’s a lot of insight that
you learn about getting along with people and what is the mindset
inside the military, and I’m not talking about people who make
policy. I mean grunts like who I was who are cogs in the wheel.
“You really do learn how to discipline yourself and be part of a
team and helps make things flow because that’s part of your job.”
Fogerty said his military identity also comes out from time to
time in his songs. While the most famous of these is the hit
“Fortunate Son,” there are others.
“I have a song called
‘Wrote a Song for Everyone.’ It’s a bit mysterious, but it comes
from a guy who went through the military at a very emotional and
volatile time in history,” said Fogerty. “And a lot of the songs
that talk about, or are reflective of my personality – taking note
of class structure or the inequality of the way society works –
certainly, those are references to my time in the military.”
Some of the songs have a more direct tie to his military background
“They came and took my dad away to serve some time, but it
was me that paid the debt he left behind …”
hit penned by the man Rolling Stones magazine named the 40th
Greatest Guitarist and 72nd Greatest Singer of all time,
“Porterville” became the first song the Golliwogs released after
they changed their name to Credence Clearwater Revival.
song was conceived in the heat of central Kentucky, according to
Fogerty, forged by a young Soldier marching for countless hours on a
1-mile square asphalt parade field, dreaming of someday becoming a
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