“Blue Ridge Mountain Blues”, backed with “Have Thine Own Way, Lord”, was the first single John Fogerty released as The Blue Ridge Rangers. The song was recorded at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley and engineered by Skip Shimmin and Russ Gary. Fogerty plays all the instruments by himself. The 45 rpm single was released in October 1972 and didn’t chart.
In the course of history, the traditional bluegrass song has been recorded by multiple artists. Fogerty’s version was based on J.E. Mainer’s rendition released in 1950, the album having been owned by Fogerty.
In 1973 Fogerty described his reactions to Mainer’s version: “It triggered off all those things – the Blue Ridge harmony when the chorus comes in, the bass drum going “boom, boom, boom” it just set me right up, reminded me a bit of “Waterloo” the Stonewall Jackson thing, where the bass drum came in that way. And so, I think with that song, the whole focus of that area of music finally crystallised in my mind, instead of just being something I liked and something that “someday I’ll take care of it,” you know, that sort of thing, it suddenly came to the fore. I listened to the Mainer record over and over, arranging it in my head, probably without realising it, but just going, as every artist does, “well they ought to have a (click) and they should have done (click) there…” — and so “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues”, became kind of my own personal little national anthem or something. It’s one of my favourite songs of all kinds of music – it’s one that I rate in my own top 10.”
The song opens The Blue Ridge Rangers album because it’s a centre of many things. The original title “Blue Rangers”, referring to the pre-Creedence band Blue Velvets, was replaced by “The Blue Ridge Rangers” after “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” was added to the song line-up. The concept of the album crystallized in Fogerty’s mind during the tour in Japan and Oceania in February 1972.
John Fogerty played a Fender Telecaster, a Gibson short scale bass, a Gibson J-200 acoustic guitar on a track (Lars Bundesen).
The single was released with different cover sleeves in Germany, Netherlands, and Portugal. The US release had no picture sleeve.
The Portuguese pressing had a photo of Doug Clifford on the back of the picture sleeve. (Peter Koers, Green River: An Illustrated Discography, 1999).
The three man Creedence Clearwater Revival, i.e. post Tom Fogerty’s departure, played “Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” live in jam sessions in hotels on the last two tours in Japan and Oceania in winter 1972 and in the USA in April-May 1972. On those occasions, the band performed under the pseudonym, Shit Kicker 3.
John Fogerty delivered the song live in a local dance at Troy Inn in Troy, OR, in November 1987. The large audience heard the live version for the first time in venues of the John Fogerty summer tour in 2004. The debut took place in Saratoga, California, on June 25th.
The bluegrass song made a return to the set list in Santa Barbara, California, on May 4th 2008, and was played regularly in the summer 2008 concerts the fiddle parts being handled by session man Jason Mowery.
“Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” appears on the 2009 live DVD Comin’ Down the Road which John Fogerty recorded at Royal Albert Hall, London, UK, in June 2008. He also performed the song at Austin City Limits in Zilker Park, Austin, Texas, in 2008. The show was later broadcast by PBS TV.
“”Blue Ridge Mountain Blues” is a sort of country standard that John says he took from the J.E. Mainer version, although he added the resounding bass drum work. It’s a perfect theme song for this kind of album, very specific in lyric, but very general in overtones.”