In January 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival released their second studio album Bayou Country and released their breakout single "Proud Mary" backed with "Born on the Bayou", which reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Prior to recording their new album in March, Creedence conducted a test session at the recently built Wally Heider Studios where they recorded three instrumental test tracks (two of which, "Broken Spoke Shuffle" and "Glory Be", are included in the 2008 remastered CD). The recordings for Green River lasted until June. While completing the forthcoming album the band issued two singles: "Bad Moon Rising" backed with "Lodi" and "Green River" backed with "Commotion", in April and July. Both reached #2 on the Billboard charts.
In an interview Fogerty gave to Rolling Stone in 2012, Fogerty states, "certainly in a song like "Green River" – which you may think would fit seamlessly into the Bayou vibe, but it's actually about the Green River, as I named it – it was actually called Putah Creek by Winters, California. It wasn't called Green River, but in my mind I always sort of called it Green River. All those little anecdotes are part of my childhood, those are things that happened to me actually, I just wrote about them and the audience shifted at the time and place."
Rolling Stone called it "a great album" with the reviewer further stating "they are now creating the most vivid American rock since Music from Big Pink".Allmusic gave the album 5 stars (out of 5) with Stephen Thomas Erlewine stating: "If anything, CCR's third album Green River represents the full flower of their classic sound initially essayed on its predecessor, Bayou Country."