Stu Cook, Rock and Roll Hall of Famer for his bass playing with Creedence Clearwater Revival, turns 65 this Saturday. And he’s still rocking.
Cook and fellow Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford are on tour with Creedence Clearwater Revisited – the original band’s reincarnation project. The Aggie had a chance to chat with Cook before the band plays in Dixon on Saturday, May 8.
So how did Creedence Clearwater Revisited come to be?
Well, Revisited sort of happened by accident. When we decided to put this band together, Doug and I didn’t really know what to expect. We had no idea how our fans would receive it, we sort of had an idea of how the critics would look at it. But we thought it was a pretty good band, and we were proud enough of it to find some places where we could play. We originally thought we’d just play for private parties, but instead we started playing public concerts from the very beginning. And the reception was overwhelming. The fans embraced us quite enthusiastically. I think the first year we played six shows, the next year we played 106 shows. We’ve since cut back to about 75 shows on average a year, which is more manageable. It leaves us more time at home to enjoy the rest of our lives. But we look forward to playing those 75 shows. The careers have been fairly unscripted; it sort of just evolved based on the spread of our reputation as a good band that was really honoring and celebrating the music of CCR. Plus we had two original members, so it added Creedence with one E.
What are the main differences between Creedence Clearwater Revisited shows and the old CCR shows?
We have some different personalities. We have the original members Clifford and myself, and we have John Tristao on lead vocals/rhythm guitar, Tal Morris on lead guitar and Steve Gunner on percussion/harmonica/keyboards/acoustic guitar. So we have a different lineup than the original band.
I’d say the production might be one of the most noticeable differences. This show is a 21st century show. It’s got great lights, great sound and the production values are extremely high. That’s probably the way it differs the most from the shows in the ’60s when there frankly wasn’t much of a rock production value. It was sort of just set up and play back in those days. We’ve chosen to incorporate as much modern technology as we can so that our shows look as good as any artists that are performing in today’s industry.
I noticed many of your shows coming up are at casinos and resorts. Is there a reason for that?
Well that’s where a lot of our audience likes to go for their entertainment, as it turns out. Let me start by saying that we have a very broad audience. We have preteens up to people in their 70s or even in their 80s. The audience is an extremely broad demographic. But the folks with extra money that they can allocate toward entertainment like to go to smaller environments: 1,000 to 3,000 seat venues, which most casinos have. They quite often like to go out for gaming as well. For us, these venues offer tremendous production in terms of lights, sound, good seating and good visibility for people in the audience. They’re really nice places to see a show – any kind of show. Casinos used to be something that artists of my generation turned their noses up at, but practically every artist that is touring today will play a casino. It doesn’t have the stigma that it used to. We find them to be a lot of fun. I mean, from the artist’s side, they have nice hotels, nice restaurants, wonderful fitness rooms and health spas. When we get to a casino to play one or two nights, we always have a great time!
Are you looking forward to playing the more county-fair type of setting, like in Dixon in May?
That’s the other side of our touring schedule. Sure, we love playing the county and state fairs and other civic events; it brings out a much broader audience. You can see three generations of families that come to these events together to enjoy Creedence music. We’ve played the Dixon fair before, so we know how much fun that fair is. I’m from Northern California originally – I’m from the East Bay – so I’m very familiar with every mile between Berkeley and Sacramento on I-80.
Ha, the Nasty Nimitz!
Well you know it used to just be a two-lane road. San Pablo Avenue was how you got from the East Bay to Sacramento many, many years ago. I used to race cars in Vacaville, we used to have a drag strip there. We used to stop at the Nut Tree back when it was the big restaurant on the way. Yes, it was a long time ago.
How do you think Creedence songs have been able to maintain popularity over all of these years?
I think the simplicity, the straight-forwardness and the honesty of Creedence music makes it really accessible. It makes it really easy for other musicians to learn to play these songs, so they are being played nightly across the country. We are fortunate enough to find a place where it works for everybody.
Do you ever get tired of playing the same songs? It has been many years.
Well we played them for three and half years when we were the original band from ’68 to ’72, and we didn’t play them again until 1995. So this is our 16th year of the Revisited project, and I have to say no, we don’t get tired of playing them. Every night is an opportunity to play them in front of a new audience and an opportunity to try to play them better.
What does the future look like for the Revisited band? Do you think you’ll keep playing for the next few years?
Yes, I do. We are all still in excellent health and we are enjoying our work more than ever. We started playing in March this year and the shows have been at least at the level of where we left off last year in terms of precision, musicality and excitement. We’re looking forward to having a great year this year. We just take it one year at a time – we don’t really have a grand plan except to try to go places we haven’t been. This year we are going to Hong Kong and Australia, and we are also going back to South America for our sixth or seventh time. Creedence is popular all over the world. We’ve been to Europe half a dozen times. We play the U.S., Canada and Mexico every year. We’ve played about 30 countries.
I’m curious as to some of the legends you’ve met over the years; I’m sure there are tons.
Well we’ve met the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Moody Blues, Led Zeppelin, Santana – we used to play lots of shows with Carlos. Well, too many to even think of, really. We have met a lot of great people. We’ve had the opportunity to share the stage with some absolutely incredible talent over the past 40-plus years.
And I have just one last question: What can Willy and the Poor Boys possibly play with a harp, a kazoo, a washboard, a gut bass and a Kalamazoo? For just a nickel?
Hahaha. We’ll find a groove to that. We’ve actually played those instruments. If you look at the cover of the Willy and the Poor Boys album, we were actually jamming on this street corner in downtown Oakland. Well not downtown, more like the “hood” of Oakland, where that photo session was taking place. We just played for about an hour and a half. You had me on the gut bass, Cosmo on the washboard, John on the harmonica and Tom on the Kalamazoo guitar. It’s really about making rhythmic noise and throwing in a little bit of melody. We had a good time with it.
Creedence Clearwater Revisted will be at the Dixon May Fair on May 8. Tickets range from $34-39 and are available through Ticketmaster.
JANELLE BITKER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.