The song was written on a steamboat called the “Mary Elizabeth” owned by the Grafton family.
Stylistically, the song merges elements of several genres, including rock and roll, blues, gospel, and soul. Nevertheless, it contains many of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s most characteristic elements, including a repeated guitar riff, “down-home” lyrics, and a guitar solo Fogerty said was influenced by Steve Cropper of Booker T. & the MGs.
The second line of the second verse has generated considerable confusion, and can be considered a type of mondegreen. Listeners have variously interpreted it as “pumped a lot of pain” and “pumped a lot of ’pane”, referring to propane, which is commonly used as a fuel. The controversy was further fueled by Ike & Tina Turner’s cover, in which Tina sings “pumped a lot of ’tane,” referring to octane, the grading scale and chemical in gasoline. The author, Fogerty, finally laid the confusion to rest, saying, “Sometimes I write words to songs because they sound cool to sing. Sometimes the listener doesn’t understand what I’m singing because I’m dedicated to singing the vowel, having fun with the word sounds coming out of my mouth. ‘Cleaned a lot of plates in Memphis, pumped a lot of pain down in New Orleans,’ is a good example. I think Tina Turner sang '`tane' instead of 'pain,' as in a contracted form of 'octane'. But I knew what she meant.”
The Original - Creedence Clearwater Revival
The Famous Cover - Ike & Tina Turner