by Blake Maddux –
As the rhythm section on all seven albums that Creedence Clearwater Revival released between 1968 and 1972, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford played on a list of songs that reads more like the greatest hits of any entire generation of artists rather than the work of a single band.
Two decades after that group split, Cook and Clifford teamed up to tour as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. After initially losing a legal challenge by CCR lead singer John Fogerty that resulted in a change of name to Cosmo’s Factory, the two later prevailed and resumed use of the original moniker.
With lead singer John Tristao along for the entire ride, the quintet has triumphantly soldiered on across the globe, performing night after night of irreproachably classic tunes for far longer than the original line-up did.
Stu Cook spoke to Lynn Happens in advance of Creedence Clearwater Revisited’s show at the Lynn Auditorium on Friday, October 31.
Blake Maddux: What was it like for you and Doug Clifford to work together with the legendary Doug Sahm on the 1974 album Groover’s Paradise?
Stu Cook: That was a great project. Cosmo produced it, Doug and I were the rhythm section. It was great to play with Doug Sahm. He’s one of America’s great, great talents. It was a real treat.
Maddux: You worked as a producer for Roky Erickson, lead singer of the 13th Floor Elevators and another rock legend, in 1979. How did that collaboration come about?
Cook: A mutual acquaintance brought us together. He thought that we’d be a good fit. Actually, I produced two albums for Roky, 15 songs total. They have recently been rereleased on a label in the Northwest called Light in the Attic, Matt Sullivan’s label. He’s rereleased all 15 songs that I recorded with Roky plus two other Roky albums from that era, the 80s. Those all just came out this year to great critical review and some good sales. I’m happy that Roky’s music is still getting pushed out there.
Maddux: Do you see a good number of younger people side-by-side with people of your generation at Creedence Clearwater Revisited show?
Cook: Yes. Interestingly enough, from the very beginning of the project back in the mid-90s, we saw young people. When I say “young people,” I mean people under 20. So now those people are close to 40, and we’re still seeing a lot of young people! (laughs) This is our twentieth year of touring with the Revisited project, and we’ve gone through a generation already. We see four generations of fans at Creedence Revisited concerts now.
Maddux: Do you ever dust off any lesser-known Creedence Clearwater Revival songs and do they get as enthusiastic of a response as the classics do?
Cook: I’m not in a good spot to judge the response because I’m wearing ear buds. We focus on the hits, obviously, but we were fortunate enough to have a lot of two-sided hits, so we were pretty deep into the albums already, just by virtue of every single having a B-side. From the first album, we play “Susie Q” and “I Put A Spell on You.” From the second album, obviously we play “Proud Mary.” “Susie Q” is a long jam tune, of course. “[I Heard it Through the] Grapevine” as well.
We stick pretty much to the better-known pieces because we’re not familiar with how deep into the catalog our audiences have delved. We try to keep it as simple as possible. We play a lot of songs at sound check that don’t make it to the stage: “Ninety-Nine and a Half,” “Bootleg,” “Don’t Look Know,” “It Came Out of the Sky,” “Good Golly Miss Molly.” There’s a lot of catalog to play, for sure, and unfortunately we just don’t have the time in the show to get completely deep. Some of the songs get a better reaction, but all of the songs get a great reaction. We’re pretty comfortable with the setlist. It hasn’t changed a whole lot in the last 20 years.
Maddux: The people come to sing along, right?
Cook: Exactly. That’s why we play these different songs at sound check. They used to be in the show. We used to do a much longer show, but most of the people that hire us prefer that we keep it around 100 minutes, 90 to 100, so that’s generally how it turns out. We fought it for years. There’s a lot of complex maneuvering that finally lead us to the trough of where we are now.
Maddux: 100 minutes does not allow for any filler.
Cook: Exactly. You don’t want to get up any miss any of it.
Maddux: No songs during which to get up and buy a beer.
Cook: Or get rid of one!
Maddux: Did you appreciate the shout-out that Creedence Clearwater Revival got in The Big Lebowski?
Cook: It’s great to have your music in other media – film, television – besides our normal medium of radio. But to be written into the script, where their talking about the Creedence tapes, I mean that’s great. That just doesn’t happen. Another creator that does that is Stephen King. He has several times written Creedence into his stories. It’s quite an honor, you know. We had two songs in The Big Lebowski, plus a shout-out in the screenplay. That’s probably the highest honor you can get! It’s a true cult classic film.
Maddux: Better to have been Creedence than The Eagles.
Cook: Yeah, that’s right. We get the shout-out and they get the diss! (laughs)
Maddux: Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Cars are pretty dissimilar-sounding bands. How did Cars guitarist Elliot Easton come to be a member of Creedence Clearwater Revisited in the early days?
Cook: Elliot was a friend of mine and he’s a roots guitar player. Even though The Cars don’t strike people as a very earthy band, and they’re not, Elliot was the part of that band that kept them grounded, to my thinking. He grew up on the same kind of music that we did. He knows his blues guys, he knows his country stuff. He’s a pretty deep guitar player. So yeah, he was with us the first 10 years. It was great.
Maddux: What does it take to pass an audition for Creedence Clearwater Revisited?
Cook: (laughs) Well, you’ve gotta have heart! Number one you’ve got to have heart. You’ve got to love the music. And you’ve gotta have some chops, you know. John Tristao, our lead singer, has been our singer for 20 years now. He’s a great singer, he’s got a big heart, and his vocal chords can handle the songs the way Fogerty sang them back when he was in his twenties. So we’ve got a great singer. We’ve got Kurt Griffey on lead guitar, who’s a world-class guitar player, he’s played with a lot of guys, including The Eagles! Steve Gunner’s our utility guy, plays keyboards, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica, [and] sings harmonies with me. Kurt’s our newest guy. He’s been with us like three or four years, I can’t remember.
That’s the line-up, and we play all Creedence all night.
Maddux: It doesn’t get much better than that. Thanks for talking to me, and I will see you at the Lynn Auditorium on Halloween.
Cook: Oh great. That’s my favorite holiday!
Creedence Clearwater Revisited at Lynn Auditorium. Friday, October 31. Doors at 6:30 p.m., show at 8 p.m. Tickets ($37-$67, plus applicable fees) are available from Ticketmaster, at the box office during City Hall business hours, or by calling (781) 599-SHOW.