Boomerocity readers are more than familiar with the iconic band from the sixties and early seventies, Creedence Clearwater revival. Their music catalog includes Proud Mary, Who’ll Stop The Rain, and many other songs that occupy the soundtrack of baby boomer’s youth. They were veterans of Woodstock and other huge festivals of 1969. Wikipedia states that, just in the U.S., they’ve sold 28 million records.
All of this led up to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 – twenty-one years after the band broke up on pursued years of litigation between Stu Cook and Doug Clifford and their lead singer/guitarist, John Fogerty.
For over twenty-years, Stu and Doug toured as Creedence Clearwater Revisited (the germ of one of the post-breakup lawsuits), bringing back musical memories to long-time fans and new fans, alike.
That is, until their recent announcement that they are retiring from the road after this year.
That news came on the heels of a re-hashed announcement that Stu and Doug and settled their pending lawsuits with John Fogerty. I reached out to Stu to have my second interview with him to chat about these announcements.
When I called Stu up at his home, we made some small talk, among which was the fact that it had been almost five years since we last spoke. He chuckled and said, “Holy Mackerel! We’re on the five-year plan!”
We engaged in some small talk, joking about their retirement as well as those of other artists who have announced their retirement – some as far back as thirty-something years ago. As I mentioned that CCR’s itinerary didn’t seem all that long, I hoped that more shows were going to be added. I didn’t like his answer.
“No. We don’t play in East Tennessee. We haven’t been in East Tennessee in quite a while. We never know where we’re going. We have virtually no say in it. The offers come in and our booking agency, William Morris, and our management, they try to figure out – they put the dart board on the wall then they decide, ‘Which dates they can possibly make it from A to B to C without killing themselves.’ We call it “No heroics,’ ha ha! If we can’t get there safely overnight, we probably shouldn’t take the gig.”
" allowtransparency="no">Later in our conversation when we chatted about the “Revisited” incarnation of CCR, Stu indicated: “Twenty-five. This is year twenty-five of ‘Revisited’. Who knew that it would go on like that? We used to have a plan. It was actually a five-year plan. But, after the first one, we just said, ‘Ah, what the hell? We’ll just do it year by year and see how it feels. At the end of each year, we’ll take a look, run the year backwards, see what worked and what didn’t, what we can fix and what we can’t, and decide if we want to move forward from there.’
“At the end of last year, we said, ‘You know? The playing is as great as ever. The audience is as great as ever. And, of course, the music is supreme for us. The road is just not much fun.’ Twenty-five straight years of straight of – you know, most bands take a break. Most artists tour behind product – new product or recent product. We’re touring on our legacy. We do it every year but when you start going back to the same place multiple times and it wasn’t your favorite place to begin with, the travel has really gotten unromantic.
“We’re not retiring from the music business, as such, or from music, or from being CCR, or even Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We’re just taking a break from the road which, at our age, this will likely be the last year of regular revisited appearances anywhere.”
I stopped my questioning to thank Stu and the band for such an incredible body of music that is stamped all over the soundtrack of my youth; what all it represents and the memories it conjures up – both good and bad – when I hear their songs.
“Well, you’re welcome! I love it!”
I then segued into another area by telling Cook that I had seen where he and the band had settled litigation with John Fogerty and then, right after that, I read about the retirement announcement. Why this? Why now?
“Well, the settlement actually occurred a couple of years ago. The settlement I refer to is our most recent legal battle. It started at the end of ’14 and then went through ’15, ’16. I think we settled at the beginning of ’17. It really had no connection at all, that I can call on or pull down and attach to our decision to get off the road. But, that said, to your question what it feels like; what our settlement looks like: at this point, it’s just a business arrangement but it’s far man than we ever had in the last forty-five years. We have a company together and we hope to do some interesting things with it.
“In the meantime, other projects have been in the wings and are now about to take stage. I believe that Creedence’s full performance, the quartet’s first and full performance at Royal Albert Hall is going to be released. It’s a DVD. Coming up also, I believe, this year, because this is the fiftieth anniversary, of course, of Woodstock. We’re trying to get together a complete set to be released on DVD, as well. We weren’t in the movie. Hopefully, people will be able to judge for themselves how good that performance was. I think it was one of the best of the event. A journeyman set under any circumstances, but Woodstock was not your normal circumstance.
“Other artists didn’t fare as well as we did. We were so well drilled that it really didn’t matter where we were or what was going on. We could play that set! Ha! Ha! That was our thing, you know? We were ready, always, to go into the studio. We never went into the studio when we weren’t ready. Never went on stage unless we were ready. So, I’m not surprised that our set still stands up.”
When I said to Stu that it had to be a bit surreal and mind boggling to think, Wow! Such a major, pivotal event in pop culture, society, and history, to be a part of that. When I admitted that it was a “freshman question” to ask what it was like, Stu said:
“Well, you know? At the time, it wasn’t that big a deal. There was some startling, amazing visuals at Woodstock for us. The artists had a completely different world than the audience. We were backstage where there was comfort of all kinds, right? There was no suffering backstage. There was no grit, as they say. Ha! Ha! That was all out in the audience.
“As time has gone by, I’m ever more convinced that the event was really about the audience. The music sold the tickets and was the draw, the bait. But what transpired was truly unique – probably unheard-of for population of that size. So diverse. Thrown together for a weekend – especially considering half the people paid and the other half didn’t.
“There wasn’t any misbehavior or social nonsense. I call it anti-social nonsense. If it did exist, it was immediately controlled by the people. They were self-policing. Two deaths. Two births. Something like that. For a city of nearly a half a million, that’s pretty unique, especially given the circumstances.
“The film, I think, shows it more clearly. The film is about the audience – the event that they created. The bands were really the soundtrack. The Muzak, if you will, for that elevator ride! We played the Dionne Warwick special the night before. Flew all night to Boston. Caught a private jet up to Bethel. The, I believe we helicoptered to the Holiday Inn where everybody was. Sort of camp headquarters. Everybody from Production was there. Everybody from all the bands, crews, everybody was there. But they weren’t at the site working.
“So, we helicoptered into the site. We came over the hill and saw that mass amount of people. It was just pretty amazing – to see so much humanity . . . and hair everywhere! Hair and teeth! Ha! Ha!”
I joked that if there was a reunion of those people held today, there wouldn’t be much of both, to which he laughed and said:
“Yeah, really! Ha! Ha! I went to a Woodstock party Saturday night. I was asked to speak. I asked the audience, ‘Is there anybody here this evening who had been to Woodstock?’ Actually, two people that said they were at Woodstock! I was surprised. Most people had seen the film. Some people had actually seen the film more than once.
“It wasn’t the biggest festival of the summer. Atlanta. California had one. Denver had a Pop festival – a rock festival; whatever they were called at the time. So, ’69 was the summer of festivals. At the time, for us, it was really just another one. We played four or five of them that year. The logistics were far more difficult, especially when it would start to rain, which threw the whole second day’s schedule off. We were supposed to play at ten Saturday night – we were supposed to headline.”
A technical glitch blanked out a few minutes of the recording of our chat, so I don’t have the rest of what Stu had to say about CCR’s performance at Woodstock. To say that it was fascinating would be an understatement.
I asked Cook what advice he would give aspiring artists who wish to subject themselves to the rigors of the music business.
“Professional advice not meant to start an argument. Creedence didn’t have that. We didn’t have someone to step in and say, ‘Hey, you know, this person is making a good point. You’re making a good point. But you’re wrong here, they’re wrong there.’ Have everyone honestly express themselves. This is what I would recommend you consider doing.
“I read a Science Fiction book – I forget by which guy it was. Frank Herbert, maybe. He was talking about the concept of a fair witness. Someone who can call ‘bullshit’ and they get the final say sort of a thing. That’s what was missing from our organization. We had the drive. We had the dedication. We had the friendship. What we didn’t have was someone who could navigate the dangerous waters of the music business which led to our early demise, just to wrap that thought up.
“That, and my advice would be to not let things simmer and fester. I think being candid, open, and honest is always a preferable route so that you don’t end up making compromises that you later regret. You thought this might be that way if you did this because you thought that’s what the other person wanted or needed or expected. Then, come to find out, they hadn’t even considered what you’d done as some sort of offering or compromise or something because you never really had the conversation about what needed to be done; who was willing to do what.
“So, there needs to be a really high level of honesty among all of the participants so that you all stay on the same page as long as possible. It’s inevitable that people will lose interest or finds other directions because that’s the way life is. Change is inevitable. But you shouldn’t be surprised by it and it shouldn’t cause a lot of grief. And it won’t if you understand what your relationships are, how they work, and you all are in agreement as you move forward. That would be my advice. I know it sounds overly ‘ivory tower’ or intellectualized, perhaps. You gotta be honest with yourself and with your co-workers and partners. And you need someone you can be honest with and they can be honest with you, to help you through uncharted waters.”
When I opined that people still have the idea that once a talent signs a record deal, they are instant millionaires and flying on private jets, he laughed and said:
“People need to get a grip on their own realities. How many people are going to be travelling like the Stones or Elton John or Billy Joel? That’s the stratosphere, up there. First, you gotta find a band. Then, you gotta find a manager. He has to find a deal. Then, you have to get an agent. Then, you have to get on the radio. It’s all much harder now.”
I commented that I hoped that the settlement with John Fogerty meant that there can be healing and a mending of the fences where there can be true friendship, again. He responded by saying:
“Well, you know, I’d been pushing for this for years. It was quite expensive, but we finally got it done. If nothing else, our heirs will like us because they won’t have to do it.
“I’m with you. There’s just no point in carrying grudges, being bitter. Life is far too short. We can all do much better than to carry that baggage around. Life has got enough challenges without carrying the past in that particular way. You look at it and say, ‘Yeah, well, everyone has a part in their pasts. You weren’t always the winner and you weren’t always right.’
“So, yeah, I’m with you. Let’s act like big people.”
I reminded Stu that, during our last chat, he had commented on the then-pending lawsuit between Randy California’s estate and Led Zeppelin over “Stairway To Heaven”. He said:
“Right there! That should tell you why you don’t want twelve strangers deciding your fate. The first lawsuit we were in with Fogerty when he blocked us, temporarily, from using the name, ‘Revisited’ – ‘Creedence Clearwater Revisited,’ actually – we were in front of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals – the three-judge panel; heard the arguments. At the end of it, they went and did their deliberations. They sent us a message a couple of months later, saying, ‘We’re going to give Cook and Clifford back the right to use the name, ‘Revisited.’ In other words, John lost his injunction. It was overturned. Both lawsuits – his and ours – remained in place. They said, ‘We consider your actions against each other a family matter and suggest that you solve them in that manner.’ Ha! Ha! They could see, already, that if they were us, they wouldn’t want twelve strangers deciding these issues for them. We eventually took that message to heart. We got the first lawsuit out of the way. The second one Doug and I felt that we had to bring because we felt that John was inappropriately making a move to take over the trademark, which would’ve given him the power to do anything if we hadn’t fought it.”
The contractual war is over. CCR is giving peace a chance. “Revisited” is ending touring as we have been accustomed to seeing them this year. Visit Creedence-Revisited.com, purchase tickets and plan a trip to catch this iconic act one last time. They will put a smile on your face as you remember the times when their songs were new to – and dominating – the airwaves.
Thank you, Stu, Doug, Tom, and John, for the songs and the memories tied to them.