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Music / Willy and the Poor Boys

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"Willy and the Poor Boys are playin'. Bring a nickel, tap your feet."

"Some folks are born, made to wave the flag.
Ooh, they're red, white and blue,
And when the band plays "Hail to the Chief"
Ooh, they point the cannon at you, Lord
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one, no."
—"Fortunate Son"

Willy and the Poor Boys is the fourth studio album by Creedence Clearwater Revival, released on November 2, 1969 through Fantasy Records. It is best known for the hits "Down on the Corner" and "Fortunate Son", the latter of which has been included in the National Recording Registry in 2013 for being "culturally, historically and aesthetically important."

Not to be confused with Willie and the Poor Boys, a short-lived supergroup from The '80s that came out with an album of the same name. Led by Bill Wyman and features Charlie Watts, Andy Fairweather-Low, Mickey Gee and Geraint Watkins, among others.


Side One
  1. "Down on the Corner" (2:46)
  2. "It Came Out of the Sky" (2:53)
  3. "Cotton Fields" (2:56)
  4. "Poorboy Shuffle" (2:25)
  5. "Feelin' Blue" (5:06)

Side Two

  1. "Fortunate Son" (2:19)
  2. "Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me)" (2:11)
  3. "The Midnight Special" (4:13)
  4. "Side o' the Road" (3:24)
  5. "Effigy" (6:26)

Bonus Tracks (40th Anniversary Edition

  1. "Fortunate Son (Live)" (2:13)
  2. "It Came Out of the Sky (Live)" (3:26)
  3. "Down on the Corner (Jam)" (2:49)

Principal Members:

  • Doug Clifford: drums, washboard
  • Stu Cook: bass, washtub bass
  • John Fogerty: lead vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica
  • Tom Fogerty: guitar

Let the Midnight Special shine a trope on me:

  • Album Title Drop: "Down on the Corner"
    Down on the corner, out in the street
    Willy and the Poor Boys are playin'
    Bring a nickel, tap your feet
  • Alien Invasion and Came from the Sky: "It Came Out of the Sky".
    Oh, it came out of the sky, landed just a little south of Moline
    Jody fell out of his tractor, couldn't b'lieve what he seen
    Laid on the ground a shakin', fearin' for his life
    Then he ran all the way to town screamin' "It came out of the sky."
  • Concept Album: A very loose example, but also subversive in a way. "Down on the Corner" is about a band of street musicians, and the cover photo shows Creedence Clearwater Revival as the band, and you can even identify the individual roles by which instruments they're playing (Doug Clifford is Rooster, Stu Cook is Blinky, Tom Fogerty is Poorboy and John Fogerty is Willy). "Poorboy Shuffle" is supposed to represent an actual song by Willy and The Poor Boys (at one point someone says "Hey Rooster!", directly referencing "Down on the Corner"). None of the other songs really play into that concept, but there's a meta-concept going on too: it's all a subtle Take That! to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, in which The Beatles likewise took on the identity of a fictional band, but while they sported colorful uniforms and depicted their "audience" as a bunch of famous celebrities on their cover photo, CCR just wore ragged street clothes and posed in front of a Chinese grocery store in Oakland, with a few children as the audience.
  • Cover Version: "The Midnight Special" is a traditional folk song. "Cotton Fields" is a cover of a song by blues singer Lead Belly, which would be Covered Up by The Beach Boys, appearing on their album 20/20 from the same year.
  • Face on the Cover: The band members performing on the street, in front of a group of children.
  • Fake Band: "Down On The Corner" tells how the fictional band Willy and the Poor Boys play on street corners for money. This is also alluded on the album cover.
  • Instrumental: "Poorboy Shuffle" and "Side o' the Road", save for a bit of Studio Chatter in the beginning of the former.
  • My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: "Fortunate Son"
    Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
    Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
    And when you ask 'em, "How much should we give?"
    Ooh, they only answer "More! More! More!", y'all
  • Longest Song Goes Last: "Effigy", the album closer, is 6 minutes and 26 seconds long.
  • One-Man Song: "Fortunate Son".
  • One-Word Title: "Effigy".
  • Perpetual Poverty: "Fortunate Son"
    Some folks are born, silver spoon in hand
    Lord, don't they help themselves, y'all
    But when the taxman comes to the door
    Lord, the house looks like a rummage sale, yeah
  • Pep-Talk Song: "Effigy"
    Last night I saw the fire spreadin' to the palace door
    Silent majority weren't keepin' quiet anymore
  • Protest Song:
    • "Fortunate Son", aimed at sons of rich people who can always make sure that they escape the draft, while poor youngsters are sent off to die in war.
    • "Don't Look Now (It Ain't You or Me)" hits a similar class system target, noting how the lower classes do all the work that allows the upper classes to live comfortably.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: "Fortunate Son" was directly inspired by David Eisenhower, grandson of former president Dwight D. Eisenhower and son-in-law of then president Richard Nixon, who, of course, escaped the draft thanks to his powerful and rich relatives.
  • Siamese Twin Songs: Though never released outside of this album, "Poorboy Shuffle" fades out as "Feelin' Blue" fades in, making them practically inseparable.
  • Soldiers at the Rear: "Fortunate Son", where the protagonist is sent to the front, while richer youngsters remain safely behind at home.
  • Standard Snippet: Together with "All Along the Watchtower" by The Jimi Hendrix Experience from Electric Ladyland, "Paint It Black" by The Rolling Stones from the US version of Aftermath (Album), "We Gotta Get Out of This Place" by The Animals and "For What It's Worth" by Buffalo Springfield, "Fortunate Son" has become the soundtrack to any images of the Vietnam War.
  • Take That!: "Fortunate Son", aimed at hypocrites who remain safely away from the frontline while advocating war at the same time. "It Came Out of the Sky", about an alien invasion, also pokes fun at the American government, Vice President Spiro Agnew, the Vatican, Ronald Reagannote  and journalists Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid.
    Spiro came and made a speech about raising the Mars tax
    The Vatican said, "Woe, the Lord has come"
    Hollywood rushed out an epic film
    And Ronnie the Popular said it was a communist plot
    Oh, the newspapers came and made Jody a national hero
    Walter and Eric said they'd put him on a network T.V. show
    The White House said, "Put the thing in the Blue Room"
    The Vatican said, "No, it belongs to Rome."
  • Train Song: "Midnight Special", which is about the passenger train Midnight Special.
    Let the Midnight Special shine her light on me
    Let the Midnight Special shine her ever-loving light on me
  • War Is Hell: "Fortunate Son", indirectly criticizing The Vietnam War, but also war in general.