Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Northern California Spotlight: The Golliwogs - Porterville/Call It Pretending

Day 9 of our Northern California Battle of the Garage Bands takes us to the hamlet of El Cerrito, California, a small town wedged between on the north side of Berkeley. and Oakland at the eastern terminus of the Bay Bridge.

Here we find a band called The Golliwogs. The Golliwogs started in 1958 in Jr. High as a three-piece instrumental combo calling themselves The Blue Velvets. Stu was on piano, Doug on drums and John on guitar. When the older brother of the teenaged guitarist joined the band in 1960, they became a vocal act with the older brother, Tom, now singing. That band released three singles before 1962. Now in High School, in 1964 the band got picked up by the San Francisco based label, Fantasy Records. The owner of the label changed the name of the band to The Golliwogs and the band produced their first record three months before The Beatles would change the face of music in America.

The Golliwogs quickly adapted to the new landscape and recorded three singles for Fantasy Records between December 1964 and July 1965. Then the label created a subsidiary, Scorpio Records, to focus on local garage bands. The Golliwogs would release four singles on this label between December of 1965 and October of 1967. All originals, all written under pseudonyms. At some point the younger brother, John, started to assert more control of the band as he became the primary composer and took over the singing duties from his older brother.

Today we feature The Golliwogs' final record, released on Scorpio Records in October, 1967, Porterville/Call It Pretending. Both numbers were composed by John and he sings on both the a-side and the flip-side.

Porterville has a deep, dark dirge of a rhythm section offset by a catchy, recurring chiming Rickenbacker guitar. Our singer tells a tale of a son being persecuted for the crimes of his father in the California farming town of Porterville. Oh lord, stuck in Porterville again.
The flip-side, Call It Pretending, is our first real hint of what The Golliwogs would soon become. From the opening drum section from Doug with the accompanying hand claps, to the simple, yet catchy, James Jamerson inspired bass work of Stu (who moved from piano to bass around 1964). John sings his original composition with a real tip of the hat to the work coming out of Detroit. One can easily imagine The Temptations singing this tight, catchy soul number. The backing vocals of Tom, Stu and Doug add to the Motown feel.
Remarkably the single would see two releases, both on Scorpio Records. This first release in October of 1967 under the name The Golliwogs. And then a second release, just four months later in February of 1968 under the band's new name, the curiously named Creedence Clearwater Revival. Both releases were a flop but the band, John Fogerty, Tom Fogerty, Stu Cook and Doug Clifford would soldier on undaunted.
 Until next time, We'll see You On The Flip-Side!


  1. Hate to nitpick, but El Cerrito is north of Berkeley, not between Oakland and Berkeley (you may be thinking of Emeryville)