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Posted August 10, 2015 by Jeff in Tunes
 
 

Creedence Clearwater Revisited: Playing for the generations

Creedence Clearwater Revisited photo by Jeff Dow
Creedence Clearwater Revisited photo by Jeff Dow

Boyhood friends, Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford started Creedence Clearwater Revisited back in 1995 when a friend wanted to promote a few concerts. They didn’t realize at the time that they’d end up playing close to 100 shows a year in the United States, Canada and abroad. The guys in the duo turned 70 this year and are still going strong. We caught up with Clifford via phone and he told us about the current tour and shared the infamous story about how Johnny Cash saved him from getting beaten up in a honky-tonk bar. (We were instructed not to ask any questions about an ongoing lawsuit involving original singer John Fogerty, who’s also currently on the road playing classic Creedence songs.)

I think you recently turned 70. Did you do anything to celebrate?
Being vertical. We were in Cancun, Mexico.

That’s an alright place to be on your birthday.
It was a lot of fun.

This project started back in 1995. Talk about its origins.
I was living at Lake Tahoe at the time. I was living on the Nevada side which has no state income tax. Stu was living in L.A. He was going to stay in California and live in the Bay Area where there’s bad traffic. I told him to come up with his family and spend a week with me in the mountains to see what he thought. By the end of the week, he was buying a house. We were in my studio jamming with bass and drums. We both realized it was pretty boring and that we needed a band.  What better can you do than bring the Creedence music back to the fans live? Nobody was doing that, including John Fogerty. It sounded like a great idea and it was. This is our 21st year doing it.

Did you initially think you’d just be playing parties?
We thought we would do corporate things and quietly build on that. Our first shows were public dates. They were successful. We thought, “What the heck. Let’s take it to the public at large.” We do a few privates but for the most part we do public dates.

The band’s lineup includes lead guitarist Kurt Griffey and lead singer/rhythm guitar player John Tristao. Talk about what these guys bring to the table.
John is a powerhouse vocalist with the right attitude. He’s also a great musician and plays rhythm guitar. He’s a brilliant entertainer. He has the whole package. Kurt is the quintessential lead guitarist. He takes command when it’s his turn and comes out and kicks ass. Stu and I lay down the groove. It’s a lot of fun.

What was it like making the album Recollection back in 1998?
This is a fan-driven project so we tailored it that way. We wanted to make the people happy who supported us. Fans wanted to have something to buy. We recorded a few shows live in Canada and ended up with one out of the three. We had some technical problems. There was our little package to sell at the shows. At SXSW one year, our manager was in a bar talking to an independent record company president. He wanted to put it out. He took it gold. It was the most money he ever made so he started spending it before he started writing the royalty checks. We went to Universal and they took it platinum.

I think the Beatles had a big influence on you. Talk about that.
Not so much musically but just the fact that here were these guys from England. We saw them on the Ed Sullivan show after we heard the hype. We liked the music. They had the mop tops and they came out with the same configuration we had — lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass and drums. They were playing American rock ‘n’ roll and killing it. If four guys from Liverpool could make it, we could make it too. We were trying to make it since we were 13. It took us a few years before we had a hit. We were thinking that maybe we gave it our best shot but it didn’t work. [Their success] gave us a shot in the arm and gave us faith in what we were doing. We dedicated ourselves to working harder and sticking with it.

When you think back to 1969, what was it that enabled the band to crank out so much great music in such a short amount of time?
I thought it was a little bit loony. It was a fast track. We also did a 50-plus date tour of America in there. We played Woodstock. It was quite a year. We would put out a single and it would be a double-sided hit. Our burn rate was twice as fast as everybody else. Only a few bands had as many double-sided hits as us. We’re in the same company with Elvis and the Beatles and the Stones.

I call this the Roman candle of rock ‘n’ roll. You light that fuse and run for your life.

Would there have been anything you could’ve done to last longer?
Yes, if we had a professional manager and mentor. John [Fogerty] decided he could be a business manger and he didn’t have a clue. It was disastrous for us. That was our single biggest mistake.

What’s the story about how Johnny Cash saved you in a bar fight?
Well, it didn’t quite get to the fight part. It was soon to happen. We were playing a Johnny Cash show. It was in Nashville. I wanted to buy a country Western shirt from Nashville. I thought that would be cool.  I asked one of the crew members where I could find a shirt like that. He gave me the name of the store. I was walking along. I had long hair and a beard and hippie clothes. I walked by this bar. Next thing I know, I was up against the wall. They said, “I don’t know whether to fuck it or shoot it.” I thought I was dead. I hear this voice, “You boys, let that man go. He’s from Creedence Clearwater and he’s one of the stars in my show. You mess with him and you have to take on me.” I thought, “Holy crap!” Needless to say, I decided not to get that shirt in Nashville and never left the studio after that. It was perfect timing he was there. I don’t know what they would have done to me but it wouldn’t have been pretty.

It’s ironic because Nashville is now known as a rock ’n’ roll town.
There’s a lot of good rhythm sections working down there and cool things happening there.

Creedence is known for mixing country and rock. How’d that happen?
We were influenced by roots of American music which is basically the blues. There’s urban blues and rural blues. Rural blues is country. If you listened to country radio back in the day, those were the influences. It’s just great stuff and wonderful music. We took that genre to the level it was when we were having hits.

Your tour comes through town a month or so after John Fogerty’s tour came through town. I imagine some fans that went to his show would enjoy yours as well. Do you think that’s true?
The music certainly holds up. I think our proudest accomplishment is the test of time. We have three generations of fans now and a fourth generation coming. I call them single digiters. They’re singing the songs. That’s a tough thing to do, to have success across so many generations.

Upcoming  2015 Tour Dates 

08/11/15

08/13/15

08/14/15

08/15/15

08/20/15

08/21/15

08/22/15

Artpark (with America) – Lewiston, NY

Indiana State Fairgrounds – Indianapolis, IN

Horseshoe Bossier City Riverdome – Bossier City, LA

Golden Nugget – Lake Charles, LA

The Paramount – Huntington, NY

Hollywood Casino – Charleston, WV

Dover Downs Hotel and Casino – Dover, DE


Jeff

 
Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.