In August of 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival released its third album “Green River,” which consisted of two of their biggest hit songs Bad Moon Rising and Green River. When asked about the inspiration behind name of the title track and album, the band had no reservations – it was about a beautiful river in Northern California.
Here’s a video of the song if you need a reminder:
When asked about the term Green River during an interview with Rolling Stones in 1993, Creedence lead singer John Fogerty explained that the term came from his experience on a Putah Creek as a kid:
Green River is really about this place where I used to go as a kid on Putah Creek, near Winters, California. I went there with my family every year until I was ten. Lot of happy memories there. I learned how to swim there. There was a rope hanging from the tree. Certainly dragonflies, bullfrogs. There was a little cabin we would stay in owned by a descendant of Buffalo Bill Cody. That’s the reference in the song to Cody Jr. The actual specific reference, “Green River,” I got from a soda pop-syrup label. You used to be able to go into a soda fountain, and they had these bottles of flavored syrup. My flavor was called Green River. It was green, lime flavored, and they would empty some out over some ice and pour some of that soda water on it, and you had yourself a Green River.
And so it goes, the inspiration behind the hit song from the world-famous band came from the banks of Putah Creek, flowing out of Lake Berryessa below Monticello Dam. In another interview with Rolling Stones in 2012, Fogerty explained that their bayou-inspired music actually came from his childhood in NorCal:
What really happened is that I used a setting like New Orleans, but I would actually be talking about thing from my own life. Certainly a song like “Green River” – which you may think would fit seamlessly into the Bayou vibe, but it’s actually about the Green River, as I named it – it was actually called Putah Creek by Winters, California. It wasn’t called Green River, but in my mind I always sort of called it Green River. All those little anecdotes are part of my childhood, those are things that happened to me actually, I just wrote about them and the audience shifted at the time and place.
Here are the lyrics of the song, backing up Fogerty’s stories behind the inspiration:
Well, take me back down where cool water flows, yeah.
Let me remember things I love,
Stoppin’ at the log where catfish bite,
Walkin’ along the river road at night,
Barefoot girls dancin’ in the moonlight.
I can hear the bullfrog callin’ me.
Wonder if my rope’s still hangin’ to the tree.
Love to kick my feet ‘way down the shallow water.
Shoefly, dragonfly, get back t’your mother.
Pick up a flat rock, skip it across Green River.
Up at Cody’s camp I spent my days, oh,
With flat car riders and cross-tie walkers.
Old Cody, Junior took me over,
Said, “You’re gonna find the world is smould’rin’.
And if you get lost come on home to Green River.”
Come on home.
Today, Putah Creek sits as one of the most popular fishing destinations in NorCal, supplying fly fishermen with trophy wild trout during the season. And if you’ve ever been to the banks of the beautiful tributary near Winters, California you can attest – the water certainly has a green hue to it.
Northern California’s Outdoor Digital Newsmagazine