More than any other band, the Golliwogs suggest a group's handle really can make a difference, since they labored in obscurity for three years before achieving massive success months after the quartet changed their name to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
The Golliwogs' story began when singer and guitarist John Fogerty met drummer Doug Clifford while they were attending high school in El Cerrito, California; they discovered they shared a passion for Little Richard and Fats Domino, and decided to form a band to play New Orleans-style rock & roll. After several months, Fogerty and Clifford recruited Stu Cook, another El Cerrito student, to handle piano and bass guitar with their combo.
Initially called the Blue Velvets, the group gave star billing to John's older brother when he came aboard as lead vocalist and guitarist. In 1961, Tommy Fogerty & the Blue Velvets released a pair of singles for the Oakland, California-based label Orchestra Records, but neither was a success. In 1963, Fantasy Records, a jazz label based out of San Francisco, enjoyed a surprise hit single with Vince Guaraldi's piano tune "Cast Your Fate to the Wind," and when a local television station aired a documentary about the record's success, the Blue Velvets approached Fantasy in hopes of landing a new record deal. Fantasy co-owner Max Weiss saw potential in the group and signed them up, but believed they needed a new name, and after toying with the Visions, Weiss and his associates declared the band would now be known as the Golliwogs.
The Golliwogs released their first single on Fantasy, "Don't Tell Me No Lies" b/w "Little Girl (Does Your Momma Know)," in November 1964; the disc made no impression on the charts, and while the Golliwogs would cut six other singles for Fantasy and their affiliated Scorpio label (including an early version of CCR's "Walking on the Water"), the only chart success the band saw was with their song "Brown Eyed Girl" (an original, not the venerable Van Morrison number), which rose to number ten on Billboard's "Regional Breakout" chart for Miami, Florida.
While Tommy Fogerty co-wrote and sang many of the Golliwogs' early singles, as time passed his brother John became more of a presence in the group, taking a larger role in the recording process and even producing their final sessions. The final Golliwogs single, "Porterville" b/w "Call It Pretending," appeared in late 1967, and the band was offered a new deal with Fantasy under the condition they once again change their name (no great hardship, as they were never very enthusiastic about being called the Golliwogs anyway).
The group came up with Creedence Clearwater Revival, and their debut album (which included new versions of both "Porterville" and "Walking on the Water") appeared in July 1968; CCR's versions of "Suzie Q" and "I Put a Spell on You" were both solid hits, and at long last the quartet was a success. In 1974, after Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up, Fantasy released a collection of Golliwogs material under the name Pre-Creedence, and in 1998, their song "Fight Fire" got some belated respect when it appeared on the celebrated garage rock box set Nuggets: Original Artyfacts from the First Psychedelic Era 1965-1968.