The true and sad story of Creedence Clearwater Revival

Reporter: PJ Madam | Producer: Paul Waterhouse

They were the Californian rock 'n roll band with a quirky, nonsensical name. Creedence Clearwater Revival burst onto the scene in 1968 with their distinct sound of blues and roots mixed with swamp rock. It defined the hippy era of the late 60's.

But today, at age 70, the three surviving members have been feuding for so many years they only speak through lawyers.

Turn on the radio, and there's a good chance a Creedence song will come on, such is the legacy they left behind.

The dream began in their high school music room as 12 year olds; John Fogerty was the lead singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival, Doug Clifford the drummer and Stu Cook played piano, then bass.

John Fogerty

John’s older brother Tom became the fourth member, playing rhythm guitar.

But it was John's gift of song writing that propelled them to become one of the biggest bands in the world, selling more than 100 million albums and headlining Woodstock.

John Fogerty told Sunday Night's PJ Madam the band's entry-level contract robbed him of the rights to his own songs, and sparked the feud that would destroy them.

Saul Zaentz, owner of Fantasy Records, offered them a contract, which gave him ownership of their music and their royalty rate was just 10 percent.

Doug Clifford

As the band’s leader John Fogerty also acted as manager and he and the band decided to sign.

"It was the only contract being offered. It was sort of a take it or leave it situation. We had no leverage or money to spend on hiring someone to work on our behalf to make it better," John said.

"I didn't know, I just knew we were signing with Fantasy Records did I know all of the specifics no… I was 22."

John, Doug and Stu all remember a verbal agreement they made with Saul that would come to haunt them.

"[The promise was] When you guys are successful we will tear this contract up and all share equally in the pie," Stu said.

Stu Cook

Susie Q was climbed up the charts in Summer of 1968, then Born on the Bayou and Proud Mary — a song that would be played around the world. But Saul refused to tear up the contract.

"When that didn’t transpire then I said yeah well now we are stuck with one of the worst contracts for a major band," Stu said.

For John this meant he owned none of his songs.

The band, which produced three hit albums in 12 months and toured the world, should have made billions. Instead, each member walked away with a measly $2 million.

"What if you were Walt Disney and you had created Disneyland and then somebody stole it from you and all the people are enjoying Disneyland it's wonderful but your ownership has been stolen that's kind of how it feels."

The disappointment about the deal they had signed as well as sibling rivalry haunted the band, the brothers fighting even on Tom's deathbed.

Creedence was finished and bitterness set in.

"I think it was happiest when we were struggling to go up the mountain and when we got to the top of the mountain it was not happy at all," John said.

The band back in its heyday

When the band toured Australia in 1972 they were on the cusp of their break-up.

"You know what a dysfunctional families do you know they lie and we put on a pretty good face but things were falling apart.

"I wrote 'Have You Ever Seen the Rain' about the band breaking up …because it seemed like that was what we were doing we had achieved all our dreams but we were miserable, we weren't happy about it at all."

A decade later, Creedence went to court over royalties still owed by Fantasy Records.

The judge found in their favour and awarded a payout of $8.4million all together.

"For all the music we made, for all those years all over the world, $8.3 million dollars for the four of us — I mean that is a lot of money by any normal person's stretch of imagination — but when you consider 100 million records … that really wasn't much money at all."

Today, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford play the old hits – John’s songs - in a new band, they’ve called Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

"The idea that they formed a band using those words it’s tacky to me," John said.

Today though, Doug has a more pressing concern.

"This is kind of a first for me, but I am battling cancer," he said.

"So I have a different perspective on a lot of things and a lot of things that were important before that aren’t as important."