Fogerty was born in Berkeley, California, and is the younger brother of the late Tom Fogerty. He attended El Cerrito High School along with the other members of CCR and took guitar lessons from Berkeley Folk Festival creator/producer Barry Olivier. Inspired by rock and roll pioneers, especially Little Richard and Bo Diddley, John and his brother Tom Fogerty joined Doug Clifford and Stu Cook in the late 1950s to form the band Tommy Fogerty and the Blue Velvets in El Cerrito, California.
By 1968, things started to pick up for the band. The band released its first album, the self-titled Creedence Clearwater Revival, and also had their first hit single, "Susie Q". Many other hit singles and albums followed beginning with "Proud Mary" and the parent album Bayou Country.
John Fogerty, as writer of the songs for the band (as well as lead singer and lead guitarist), felt that his musical opinions should count for more than those of the others, leading to resentments within the band. These internal rifts, and Tom's feeling that he was being taken for granted, caused Tom to leave the group in January 1971. The two other group members, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford, wanted a greater role in the band's future. Fogerty, in an attempt to keep things together, insisted Cook and Clifford share equal songwriting and vocal time on what would become the band's final album, Mardi Gras, released in April 1972, which included the band's last two singles, the 1971 hit "Sweet Hitch-Hiker", and "Someday Never Comes", which barely made it into the Billboard Top 20. Cook and Clifford told Fogerty that the fans would not accept "Mardi Gras" as a CCR LP, but he said, "My voice is a unique instrument, and I will not lend it to your songs." He gave them an ultimatum: either they would do it or he would quit immediately. They accepted his ultimatum, but the album received poor reviews. It was a commercial success, however, peaking at #12 and achieving gold record status. It generated weaker sales than their previous albums. The group disbanded shortly afterwards.