Gary James' Interview With Jim Long Of
Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute Act
Hey everybody, Hey Tonight is a Creedence tribute act out of Connecticut. Portraying John Fogerty in the group is Jim Long. Jim talked with us about what that's like.
Q - OK Jim, what differentiates your Creedence tribute band from all the other Creedence tribute bands?
A - First of all, the sound. There are some tribute bands out there, some good, some not so good, but I believe we have a very close to the original sound as you can get. Our drummer is no part-timer. He plays Ringo Starr in various tribute bands. It was his idea, a couple of years ago, to do this. He's played in Vegas. He's played in Lake Tahoe. I could go down the list. And me, by accident, my family christened me from five years on and up, going to the clubs, they were up there doing "Proud Mary", "Lodi", and little did I know, the voice I was developing, just by accident and natural, would sound like Fogerty. So, it isn't something where I try to make up to sound like him. It's just I do because it's my voice anyway.
Q - Were your parents in a band?
A - Yeah. I got my step-father's Twin Twelve Fender that he carried around the war (Vietnam) with him. My brother has his original '69 bass that is pretty much the same as Stu Cook's. It was just one of those things that happens. You don't even know how or why, but you're grateful that it did.
Q - Was your step-father in a famous band?
A - No. He was in a band called Southern Breeze. It was a very popular East Coast based Country band. He lived in Nashville for a couple of years and played a steel guitar. He did it for a living. He would play out four, five, six nights a week. That's how he made his money. When it was slow, he drove a school bus. That tells you how dedicated he was with the music. And that's where it all started.
Q - Is he still around today?
A - Yeah. He comes to our shows. He's an old Vietnam vet. He was a medic. I give a lot of credit to him for all of the spawned off bands in my family. I concentrate heavy on Creedence voice, Fogerty. His latest voice sort of changed. I think he blew it (his voice) out or something, but his present voice was "Centerfield". We don't do (that). We do strictly Creedence. I concentrate on that sound of his voice. How it came about for me was working with Mike, the drummer, the Ringo guy. They were running ads in music stores for a couple of years. They tried some guys out. I happened to bring my daughter to the local music store for piano stuff and I said "You're kidding me!" In my mind I was thinking I could do that standing on my head. I was wondering why they were having a hard time. So, two or three years ago I said I'll try out with these guys. I'll never forget, I called 'em up and said "I saw your little tear-off at the music store. You're looking to put together a Creedence?" He said "Yeah, can you come by in a couple of weeks? I'll give you five songs." I said "You know what, I'll put the phone down right now and play you five songs of Creedence." It's not something I had to practice or work at. It's just what I grew up with. So, I went and tried out with them. On the spot, they hired me. I'm not gonna lie to you, right now the market is tough. We look to get a minimum of $800. We got gigs lined up, but it's tough right now. Places are having trouble money-wise. I guess. I don't know.
Q - Are you playing just in the Connecticut area?
A - Right now, strictly Connecticut, but we do want to stretch out. We just don't have it locked in yet to do that.
Q - How many gigs a year do you figure you play?
A - Probably only twelve, fourteen right now.
Q - When was the group put together?
A - It was two years ago (2010). I would say three years ago (2009). So, it is young.
Q - I noticed that the guys in Hey Tonight look like the original guys in Creedence.
A - Well, we try and dress like that. I have vintage clothing that I bought in a place down in New Haven, down by York. I wear the vintage leather pants that he (John Fogerty) would wear. I wear some of the vintage clothes. When I say vintage, some of them they don't even make anymore. But you go to this place, you pay a few extra dollars, and I do my hair similarly. Mike, the drummer, he dresses as much as he can to the part. So yeah, that's no mistake. We try to stand in the same positions they stood.
Q - This was brought to my attention the other day. John Fogerty did not stand in the center of the stage. He was always on the stage left.
A - (laughs) Oh, yeah. You noticed that.
Q - I saw the group in concert in 1972 and that did bring up the memory. Not with Tom Fogerty, but as a three piece.
A - Oh, my God! I have some of the CDs of when they did the three piece. It's funny that you would mention the position of the band members. Here's why: We had another bass player, not the one you see on our website. He's our true wanna-be bass player. I say wanna-be 'cause he has some divorce problems going on. This stand-in bass player? Twice on stage and "You need to move over, Dave. This is not the position," while we were playing. I'm saying "Move over." To make a long story short, he's gone now. It's funny you would really lock on and notice that unique, classic look of how Fogerty always stood, as you're facing from the audience, on the right hand side or his left side. The other two, I'm still trying to get us one microphone, they share. It's tough. We still do use two mics. Wow! It's nice you walked into that.
Q - Some Creedence tribute acts have told me they don't try to dress like Creedence and they don't try to mimic Creedence original stage set-up.
A - The bass player and the drummer both wear wigs. Me, I let my hair grow. I don't need a wig.
Q - Did you ever see the original Creedence in concert?
A - No. I was only eight years old. It was just christening by my family. I think it's incredible you saw Creedence! The downside, just three measly years!
Q - How successful did you think Hey Tonight the band would be?
A - Honestly? For me? I thought Oh, my God! This is a no brainer. This is gonna kick ass. Where I was taken aback is it was hard for them to find a singer. I found that hard to fathom, but after being in with them for a couple years, I understand now. There's just not that many that are willing to take the task of doing that. It's not easy doing the Creedence songs straight, you're the only singer for thirty-five songs. It's just not that easy. I had hoped for more success. I was talking to Mike (Hey Tonight drummer) about this. If you were to have seen Creedence in concert in 1970 and you were twenty years old at that time, that would make a person sixty-three right now. The average is going to be between fifty-eight and seventy who saw them. Now, that market for us; they left the stage early unfortunately, except their studio music hugely lived on. I don't know how many people remember them in concert is my point.
Q - Where is the audience for a Creedence tribute act today as you see it?
A - That is the golden ring we're trying to capture right now. Where is the audience? That's a good question. I'm sorry to have to be that honest with you, but I don't know. We're still trying to find that answer.
Q - What would you like people to know about Hey Tonight? Tell people why this group is so special.
A - Look at us onstage, 'cause you described it. I'm over on the right and the other two guys are over on the left and you never lose sight of the drummer. He's right there, dead on. I go up to the drummer just like Fogerty did. We try to do the theatricals like them. Yes, just as importantly and more importantly, we bought the same guitars. We have 'em tuned the same. Fogerty had about twelve, fourteen of his songs D-tuned to a D. Well, we call it a D, but it's like two steps down. If you do "Proud Mary", if you're a guitar player and you see him in Woodstock (movie) playing "Proud Mary", he's in E. If you're in standard tuning and you think you're gonna play in E and sound like him, it's because he D-tuned. The reason is he wanted that open sound. He wanted to pull back a little bit.
Q - And yet, Fogerty never allowed Creedence to be part of the Woodstock music.
A - I know. I can't believe he did that.
Q - He didn't think they sounded good.
A - But it does sound good. I have the songs and I listen to them all the time in my truck, the original footage. They sound fine to me. Yes, there's a little feedback here and there, but you know what? It was Woodstock, man. That was a mistake. He was micro-managing it too much. He should've let that go.