I recently found on Facebook the William A. Wilson Intermediate school site. It is now an adult ed school so I was surprised to find it. I joined because I taught there 1970-75. Some ex-students are asking about what happened to me and in particular if I once played with the Creedence Clearwater Revival band so I thought that this family website would be a good avenue to explain my history with the group. The paragraphs below along with some pictures should clear up my connection with the group in the past.
I attended El Cerrito high school 1957-1960. El Cerrito is a city north of Berkeley,Ca. with Albany in between. I was always involved in music and was in choirs all years in kindergarden, jr. high, & high school. I was a singer mostly and played around with the ukulele, upright bass, & guitar. In the summer of 1957, my best friend, Ron Fenolio, who lived across the street brought over a vinyl record and played it for me to listen to. The musician was a fellow named Joe “Fingers” Carr. Ron and I were starting high school as sophomores at that time and when I heard this record I immediately said, “I have to learn to play the piano”. I got the record and in a few weeks was playing the “12th Street rag”. Hearing Joe “Fingers” Carr play was such an inspiration to me. He also played boogie woogie on the record and it was not long that I was playing boogie woogie also.
I would play in the choir room at lunch for whoever wanted to listen. Anyhow, Gail Skinner sang in the choir and her boyfriend from Saint Mary’s high school in Albany was Tom Fogerty. She was a friend of mine and introduced me to Tom.
Tom and I soon became friends and he and his younger brother John came up to my house after school a few times and we would jam. They played at school assemblies and I got to join them a couple of times playing the piano. When Tom graduated from Saint Mary’s in 1959 he got a job at Regal gas station in Berkeley. He continued to date Gail and they eventually got married and had a family.
He was well liked by Al Peterson the manager there at the gas station so he basically got John and myself jobs there also. In the fall of 1963 I went to San Jose State University and did not see them much but I stayed somewhat connected because Tom would go up and visit my mom who would relay to me what they were doing. She was quite musical and had written many songs. Tom had a close connection with her because she had tried to make it in music also for many years but with very little success but Tom was young and very passionate about his ability to make it big. She, of course, was very supportive of his passion and energy. In 1968, a couple of years after I graduated from San Jose State, they hit it big on “Susie Q”. It was on their first CCR album (above). I visited them once at there little home in El Cerrito and they showed me there gold or platinum record on the wall.
I started teaching at William A. Wilson intermediate school in the fall of 1970. I was still playing the piano daily and got the idea to teach a summer school class on how to form and keep together a garage band. On Easter of 1971, I went up to Tom’s huge home in Grizzly Peak (Berkeley Hills) and talked to him about coming down to be a guest lecturer for the class. He was not at all interested in coming down to the school. It made me angry so when I left it was not in the best of terms. He did not tell me at the time but I since found out that he had been disgruntled with his position in CCR and had actually left the group a few months earlier. Tom was a great guy and was really the impetus that pushed the group to stardom. Countless times he said to me “George, we are going to make it big and you should come and sit in with us” I’ve always felt bad that I never knew the truth of what he was going through in March of 1971 and I never saw any of them again after that. He was interviewed when he branched out and he can be seen on youtube. I must say as a musician, that, though Tom was the pushing force at the beginning, John had a very special talent with the guitar. I had played with many different guitarists but I could see that John was in a class all of his own even at the young age when I had the opportunity to play with him. Anyhow, I had a close personal connection with Tom Fogerty and enjoyed a temporary but close musical connection with a young John. And the three of us enjoyed a part-time working relationship at the gas station also. I never knew the other two guys in the group: Stu Cook (bassist) and Doug Clifford (drummer) (both in the class of 1964). I was a good friend of George Clifford, Doug’s brother, who was in my class (1960). John was in the class of 1963.As I said, Tom was married to Gail Skinner but I lost track of them both. In 1980, I heard that Tom was getting married again but I have no idea what happened to Gail. I do know that they had children. Some years ago, I was taking to a mutual high school friend, Skip Kelly, and he said that Tom’s wife had a freak accident at their home pool and was paralyzed. I could never find out the truth of his statement and he has since died. I have been searching the internet regarding Gail but have never found anything about her.
Tom had a back problem and had many surgeries. He moved to Arizona and received many transfusions during back surgeries and contracted AIDS from one of the blood transfusions. He died from AIDS in 1990 at the age of 48. If any of you are interested in hearing the full story of CCR by John, Stu, & Doug you can click on this link: http://www.uncut.co.uk/features/creedence-clearwater-revival-the-full-story-by-john-fogerty-stu-cook-and-doug-clifford-6563
Many people have asked me if I ever regretted not being a part of CCR. First off, they had such a wonderful and simple sound without a piano and I don’t think that my talent on the piano would have fit into their scheme of things. And secondly, I have had such a wonderful 33 years of teaching teenage kids. My last 23 years were at Ponderosa High School in Shingle Springs, Ca. I had an fantastic electronic shop where I taught high school, ROP, & some college students electronic technology. The students were great there and I enjoyed teaching until the last minute of the last day that I retired in 2003. Even though my mom said that I came out of the womb singing, and certainly God has given me and my mother an unbelievable ear for music, I am so satisfied about the direction that I was taken for a career and would not change a thing. I have had the opportunity to be a part of students’ life decisions and have watched many become successful. I would not trade that for any amount of fame or money.
I did have students, teachers, & administrators in bands every year. We would play as many as 3 to 10 gigs a year for assemblies in our school, other schools, Apple Hill events, Rotary, Elks, secretary nights, etc. But our biggest gig was 2 years in a row at the Tahoe Hyatt Regency in there main ballroom for the statewide administrators conference. We were not that good but we had a great deal of fun with the large audiences. It was a 2-day event and though they really liked us, I think it became too costly for them because they would put us and the families up at the hotel. We had roadies (some of my students) because I built a sound studio in the corner of my shop and taught sound recording techniques the last 10-15 years of my stint. It was a great way to train them in a real live performance and we the musicians got the benefit of them setting up and running the sound for all of our gigs. It was such a great time for all of us.
Now that I have retired from teaching I spend many hours playing the piano and have a make-shift sound studio in one of our bedrooms here at our home in Apple Hill. I play wherever some one wants me (currently retirement complexes) and have made CD’s that I give to friends and family. You can hear some of my songs by looking through past blogs on this site. I have some pretty sophisticated recording programs and sound generators that I use. My system is MAC operating. As of 7 years ago I go to a jazz camp every year where I am put into a band and we are taught by the greatest professionals and then do a performance at the end of the week. You can see what I am talking about with pictures and videos of these outstanding professional musicians performing. They are in past blogs on this site.