To be a cornerstone of a band that produced hit after hit from the late 60s to the 70s and widely regarded as one of the quintessential classic rock bands of their generation is no mean feat.
Stu Cook has been with Creedence Clearwater Revival right from the start. A founding member and the man responsible for the low-end rhythm chops of classic rock and roll hits like “Fortunate Son” and “Born on the Bayou”, Stu was one of the few bassists that defined the genre. His induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a fine endorsement of his achievements.
Two decades after the group split, Stu and drummer Doug Clifford continue the bands legacy touring as Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
We had the honor of chatting with Stu, and he talked us through his best memories with CCR and more.
Can you pinpoint the moment in your life that made you want to be a musician?
Not exactly. Both of my parents were trained musicians, my dad played trumpet, my mom piano and B-3, so there were always instruments and people making music in the house. My first recollection of wanting to actually perform was when I saw Ray Charles in concert. I was hooked.
From playing and coming up in the 60’s, to touring and recording with CCR, can you share some of your best memories?
We were touring Europe, and the big concert at the Royal Albert Hall was next up. Tony Joe White was our Special Guest on the Tour, and Duck Dunn from Booker T and the M.G.s was playing bass for him. Famous rock photographer Jim Marshall was on tour with us, and we talked him into betting Duck that he (Duck) wouldn’t walk onto the stage during our performance and do an “Around the World” trick with his Yo-Yo. I think the bet was $100, and we offered Duck half of it if he would help us get the hundred from Marshall. We’re jamming through our set, and onto the stage calmly walks Duck. He does a perfect Around the World, winks at us and exits stage right. I’m sure the audience was clueless, but we were dying.
You’ve played some of the most iconic shows in history. Is there a pre-gig ritual that you still have till this day?
Back in the day the only ritual we had was tuning. When I joined the country rock band Southern Pacific in 1985 I first became aware that other things could be done before the concert to get your head into the “right” place. We always vocalized before each performance, standing in a circle in the dressing room we would sing all the parts of each song that had group harmonies. It really helped to tighten up the phrasing and start the evening of music. It’s a ritual that has carried over with Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We never perform without vocal warmups.
“Proud Mary” is one of the most covered songs of all-time, a song which Bob Dylan cited as his favorite from 1969 – what do you think of when you hear some of the cover versions of your songs and do you have one which stands out for you?
Actually, while it’s an honor to have one of your band’s songs covered by another artist, I’ve never thought any of them had the magic of the original versions.
What are some of your favorite albums of all time?
I’m at the point in my life that I can’t always remember the favorite albums, so I keep track by artist – Ray Charles, Rolling Stones, Beatles, Tom Petty, Dylan, Foo Fighters, QOTSA to name but a very few.
What’s your proudest musical achievement?
Obviously, being a founding member of Creedence Clearwater Revival would have to be my single proudest professional achievement. Auditioning for the Stones when Bill Wyman retired is a close second.
Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968. Stu Cook is 2nd from the right.
What was it like being a politically aware band in 1969 and did you ever imagine your message would get to so many people around the world?
Politics were entering a new form in the 60’s, and we were riding the wave of social protest including the Civil Rights Movement and the Anti-Vietnam War movement. Our music was more about government policy rather than the political ideologies of the day. That could be why our music is still relevant today.
What do you think of your music being featured in movies, advertisements and video games in today’s music landscape?
I think it’s terrific. We now have three generations of fans and this is in part due to the continued exposure we receive through all forms of media. These, and of course, Classic Rock radio have helped to keep us current.
Research has shown that popular music has become more homogeneous over time, do you think it’s a case of bias and nostalgia or was music just better in the 60s?
I believe music was better in the 50s, 60s, 70s, and even the 80s. Music from these decades has a distinct, unique sound. Not so much anymore; it has become almost completely homogenous.
Looking at technology then and now, would you have done anything differently with Creedence Clearwater Revival’s live shows and recordings?
Yes, production values have risen dramatically in the last 50 years. I would’ve loved to be able to have had some of today’s tools back then.
How has your approach to bass tone changed through the years?
I’m far more focused on the sound I want to hear. When I get it dialed in the boost in inspiration is noticeable.
Knowing what you know now about the music business, what advice would you give up and coming acts?
As much as you love your art, be aware it’s not called Show Business for no reason. Get professional advice before you sign anything. Have a backup plan. The pyramid is very small at the top.
What do you never leave home without when you’re on tour and why?
My Passport. It’s a big world.
What MONO gear do you use at home, in the studio or on tour?
I use a Vertigo bass case and Betty strap on Tour, and Betty straps on all of my studio instruments.
What is it about your MONO product that you like and why?
The Vertigo is probably the single best new idea in gig bags. To be able to stand the bass against almost anything, unzip and pull the instrument straight out the top in brilliant. No more looking for a flat surface to lay the case on.
Are there any young bass players and bands out there today that pique your interest?
I really like Bryan Beller, John Pattitucci, Victor Wooten and Willy Weeks. There are so many really good bass players out there today it’s impossible for me to keep up. I like the Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age. Jack White is another favorite. I really liked the two Raconteurs album, and his solo work is strong, too. Hardly new, but, hey…
So, what’s next for you?
I’ve been touring for 23 years with the Creedence Clearwater Revisited project, and while it’s still a complete blast, it’s not getting any easier. I have a much larger family now and anticipate spending more time with them in the future (when I’m not SCUBA diving, paddle boarding, golfing, biking, or exploring other countries and cultures)