Is Putah Creek the “Green River”?

Dylan Warner, PCT’s treasurer, did his research on answering the question about the origin of Credence Clearwater Revival’s (CCR) hit song Green River

Fishermen often overthink their situation; fly fishermen are typically much worse. As a troubled fly-fishing enthusiast myself, I succumb to many internal debates: Mayfly versus caddis. Emerger or larvae? What sort of nymph pattern today, and at this moment, and at these flows? Debating these questions, I walk along Putah Creek . A lingering and recurring question enters my consciousness as I traverse the terrain near the water, “Was John Fogerty’s hit song Green River actually written about Putah Creek?”

Green River was the title song for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1969 album of the same name. The album went on to become certified gold record. Could this hit song have been penned about Fogerty’s childhood memories of Winters, California? Once the sun fell and absence of light dictated the end of my fishing day, I began my research.

We can confirm that Fogerty grew up with his band-mate brother, Tom, in El Cerrito, California, and the album was recorded in San Francisco. The sheer geography, from the outset, lends itself to the possibility that Fogerty could find himself near the town of Winters.Growing up in Winters myself, I had heard the rumor when I discovered the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival during my teenage years. Word was, Fogerty fished for trout in Putah near the old train bridge. I adopted the rumor as truth and spent the next decade using the anecdotal story as a conversational piece with both music lovers and anglers.

The lyrics of “Green River” mention catfish, railroad ties, and Cody’s – all interesting, but not definitive. Putah is known more for trout than catfish, and Winters certainly doesn’t have a premium on railroad ties. To muddy the research waters, I found mention of a famed trout river in Colorado named Green River, contending for title honors.

Fortunately, Fogerty put the uncertainty to rest in a 2012 Rolling Stone interview in which he discussed his seminal tune: “What really happened is that I used a setting like New Orleans, but I would actually be talking about things from my own life. Green River, as I named it – was actually called Putah Creek by Winters, CA. 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.”

Research complete, I’m pleased to finally solve the mystery behind the myth in my mind. The next time I find myself in the neurosis of an undecided fly-fishing moment I’ll have one less question to contend with. As I hear the opening chords of Green River when I walk along Putah, I’ll smile in reverence to our Fogerty-famed landscape. Now, if could just resolve the mayfly versus caddis question.

 

Dylan Warner

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