Between 1968 and 1972, Creedence Clearwater Revival was the preeminent American singles band of the era, releasing a string of hits that came to define much of the Vietnam era.
Those hits will be heard live, loud and proud at Hammond’s Wolf Lake Pavilion on June 28 when Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, two of the co-founding members of the legendary Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame group lay down the familiar the funk-infused grooves of tunes like “Suzie Q,” “Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “I Put a Spell on You,” “Commotion” and others, in the band’s modern day incarnation, Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
“I remember at our first Revisited gig we saw a group of teenagers in the audience and we honestly thought they had come to the wrong concert,” laughed Cook who had spent his post Creedence years producing other artists and recording country hits as a co-founding member of Southern Pacific. “But since then, we’ve seen our audiences keep getting younger and younger. And what’s cool is that the kids know the music as well as their parents or grandparents.”
That music made famous by Creedence Clearwater Revival was unique compared to other bands of the late ‘60s era; earthier and more rootsy than their more trippy and drug-fueled psychedelic counterparts. The group’s music ranged from simplistic party rock ("Down On The Corner," "Proud Mary," "Born On The Bayou"), to songs of social and political commentary ("Fortunate Son," "Run Through The Jungle," "Who'll Stop The Rain"), becoming the soundtrack for a generation in turmoil. For three of their five years together, the quartet from El Cerrito, Calif. had been the biggest hit-makers and most successful rock band in America.
But like the generation it represented, Creedence Clearwater Revival was itself steeped in turmoil almost from the moment teenage rocker John Fogerty joined his guitarist brother Tom Fogerty in forming their first band together -- Tommy & The Blue Velvets -- with bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford. That group’s name changed to The Golliwogs, which Cook agrees is one of the worst names they could have chosen, and later to Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“It was the era of strange names for bands, especially in California with names like The Jefferson Airplane, Buffalo Springfield, and others,” he reflected. “It was a time when bands would string together disparate words and call it a name. ‘Creedence’ was the name of a good friend of Tom Fogerty, ‘Clearwater’ referenced the ecology which was a major topic of concern in the ‘60s, and ‘Revival’ was a reference to us as a band still trying to make it after nine years of playing.”
The abbreviated moniker of CCR was easier for the public and the media to recall and those three letters became the group’s calling card as its members finally hit the big time, playing major events like The Newport Pop Festival, The Atlanta Pop Festival and Woodstock.
While the voice that launched the hits was John Fogerty’s, who also wrote the band's greatest hits, the overall sound of CCR was clearly a collective effort with bassist Stu Cook and drummer/percussionist Doug “Cosmo” Clifford creating the infectious “choo-ga-loo-ga” rhythm which became a trademark of the band for which the term "swamp rock” was coined.
“John wrote the songs and together we made the records,” said Cook, defending his and Clifford’s right to play those songs. “It was the chemistry within the band that made it possible for four guys from El Cerrito who were not all that good when we started out to become as successful as we were.”
While John Fogerty has strongly disagreed with that sentiment over the years, both in print and in court proceedings, most CCR fans tend to agree Cook and Clifford have a rightful stake in the CCR legacy. Certainly the Board of The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame agrees having invited Cook, Clifford and the family of the late Tom Fogerty (who died in 1990) to be there in 1993 for Creedence Clearwater Revival’s induction into the hallowed Hall for the members’ respective contributions to the CCR sound.
Fogerty put the knife in deep and twisted it in the night of the induction into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall of Fame. "We were all there and expected to perform some of the hits again that night on stage with John," said Cook. "Tom's (Fogerty) son was there and was going to play rhythm guitar and had been working hard to get it down right." After the awards were given and the time came for the inductees to jam, Cook, Clifford and John's nephew were barred from the stage. Fogerty jammed on the CCR songs with Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Robertson and an all-star ensemble.
"Our families were all there and Tom's family was there. It could have been a really beautiful moment, and it was ruined," remembered Cook. "We were a part of those songs. We were there. We were the guys on the record and on all the shows. It just wasn't right what happened that night."
The snub by Fogerty inspired the formation of the Revisited project, said Cook. “Call it very instant karma,” he chided. “It was just another hand dealt and played by John. It was very disappointing for us, but from that came the idea for Revisited.”
Southern Pacific had called it a day by this point and Cook was taking time off while pondering the next step in his musical career. "My family and I had moved to this little town in the Sierra Mountains where Doug and his family had been living," said Cook, who shares a passion for golfing with Clifford. "We had too much free time on our hands and started getting together a couple times a week just to jam. We were just interested in playing music and being musicians. There was no interest in trying to put songs on the charts, just getting out and playing. What more obvious music choice was there for us to play than the stuff that we helped to make us famous."
So with new players -- guitarist Kurt Griffy, multi-instrumentalist Steve Gunner and vocalist John Tristao -- the duo returned to CCR’s glory days, which had come to a crashing end in 1972, just months after Tom Fogerty walked away from CCR, leaving the remaining trio to carry on for one more album – 1972’s “Mardi Gras” -- which in Cook’s own words “sucked” and ‘was doomed to failure from the start.”
“Tom quit a few times before but Cosmo and I always talked him into staying,” said Cook. Tom had graciously stepped down to let John be the singer years earlier, but eventually tired of being second fiddle in the band he created. The end was inevitable.
“We never planned to record new songs or to make this group anything more than what it is, a tribute to their own past. We call the band ‘Revisited’ so I don’t think the message can be any clearer than that,” concluded Cook about the mission of the current group which this year celebrates 19 years together.