Creedence Clearwater Revival founding members and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford have been on quite a ride. Following their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cosmo and Stu launched their Creedence Clearwater Revisited project in 1995 to once again perform live in concert the hit songs — touchstones of a generation. Since then, the legendary rhythm section has been thrilled by the outpouring of affection for their new band. World tours and a platinum selling album “Recollection” followed. Presently, after his time on stage and the enjoyment of being home with his family, Cook has his sights set on some of the world’s farthest reaches.
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Sean Ritchie: We’re going to discuss a bit about where you’re from, your music and how travel ties into it all. Let’s start with a broad question, has traveling influenced you or your career in any way?
Stu Cook: It’s probably influenced my personal life a lot more than my career. I’m an avid traveler. When I’m not traveling for work I’m traveling for my own personal enjoyment.
SR: Was this something that happened early on, or gradually throughout your life?
SC: You know, it’s my wife who pretty much picks the spots, and tells me what a great time I’m going to have. When I get there, I find out she was right.
SR: Usually, they are!
SC: Yeah, you know, even if they’re not, they are! So, you know how that works.
SR: I definitely do.
SC: I’ve probably been to about 50 countries now. I’ve lost track. A lot of times what we do is dial in vacations that are either before or after [traveling for shows]. Our thought is if you’re a far distance away, why not go some other place that’s out there while you’re already there?
© Doc Searls
SR: That’s a smart way to tackle different areas of the world. Now, to bring it back a bit, I want to touch on Oakland, California. What was it like growing up and starting music there? Also, describe the Greater San Francisco Bay Area as a whole. What would you suggest a first-time visitor to do?
SC: I was born in Oakland, but that was some time back and it was truly the grimy industrial city across the bay from San Francisco [then]. There wasn’t a whole lot going on. There was some ship yards and military [bases], but there weren’t many good restaurants besides barbecue. The whole Bay Area has experienced a big explosion in food. There is a hardly a better place in the world than SF for cuisine. It’s absolutely our favorite.
There are new restaurants all the time, but some of the older ones are killer, as well. There are three or four two-star Michelin restaurants there now. There will probably be at least one three-star in the next year or two. But, if you use the Zagat scale there are numerous places with grades above 25. Even the funky ones you can get a great atmosphere at. A place like the Swan Oyster Depot is off the charts for food, but it’s a [funky] atmosphere, so you have to decide what you’re going for.
© Deb Etheredge
I would say though that the first time in the Bay Area you have to go to SF, and experience as many of the different districts or neighborhoods as you can. Hopefully, you get a good day weather-wise and you can spend most of it outside. There’s a lot to see and do there. We usually just go walking and take it as it comes.
Northern California is also so close to the Sierra Nevada mountains. You can get up to Lake Tahoe in three hours, something like that from SF, so it’s ideally situated. The Bay is a great place for recreation if you catch it in a good time of the year, as well. We used to live in LT and would come down to SF on the weekends quite often. That’s our culture and dining zone.
SR: That sounds amazing. I personally have never been, but you just convinced me to move it up on the list. Now, to transition into music, the Bay Area has a storied music history with a lot of bands coming from there — still do. Touch on what it was like growing up there. Did that surrounding culture influence you to become a musician?
SC: Oh yeah! Not specifically, but once I did get involved in music, the different mix of genres in the Bay Area amazed me. The first concert I ever went to was Ray Charles.
SR: Wow, what a show to start off with!
SC: Yeah, I might have been 12 years old, something like that. Anyway, my mom and dad got my brother and I tickets to his show at the Berkeley Community Theatre. It was just amazing. It changed my life. At the time we were mostly listening to rhythm and blues or rock and roll – little bit of country – but after that I really began to dig into popular music. It’s sort of where all of our roots are — funky white music and funky black music, which is what we grew up on. That all sort of stayed with us as we evolved into our own sound. That was largely what it was based in.
There has always been a long tradition of big bands in SF. There was a pretty outrageous rhythm and blues scene back in those days. We would always see guys coming through town with their tour buses on San Pablo Avenue — Jimmy McCracklin, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters. Later on Sly Stone was a disc jockey, originally on KWBR, then later it became KDIA. Everybody knows who Sly Stone is.
That was in the mid-to-late 60’s, with all the psychedelic bands — Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Steve Miller Band. It was actually the Steve Miller Blues Band at the time. Can’t forget Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Then, of course Creedence Clearwater. We’re all sort of contemporaries. Then, don’t forget Carlos Santana! It was the Santana Blues band originally. There was a great music scene up-and-down, all the way from San Jose to Sacramento. There was a whole bunch of bands that we would play with all the time. We all played that circuit together.
SR: It’s unbelievable to see an area like that so rich in music history — incredible to hear your perspectives on that. One of our objectives at SCP is to bring people together while traveling. I feel that has a lot of parallels with music, where you’re constantly bringing people together in one location while playing on stage. How special is it to have been doing it for a span of 50 years, and still going strong with Creedence Clearwater Revisited?
SC: It’s a complete blessing. Creedence Clearwater Revival was done in 1972 as a recording and performing band, but in 1995 Doug Clifford and I put together Revisited with just the idea of getting out there and playing the tunes again. We had no idea if anyone would pay any attention or not. We were really surprised that so many people took a liking to what we’re doing. That was 22 years ago. So, we’ve been rocking the free world ever since — touring the world. We did a lot of touring in Europe early on, and more recently we’ve been touring in South America quite a bit — New Zealand, Australia, Canada and Mexico, as well every year.
© Andreas Kambanis
SR: I always love to ask musicians who are clearly well traveled if they have a list of places that they haven’t been to, but still want to see. Maybe two or three countries?
SC: I’m going to India later this year just to check it out. I’d like to check out Antarctica, as well. I’m pretty much done with my civilized past and present journeys. A couple of years ago I went up to Russia for a week, then France for another three weeks. Italy was wonderful. I haven’t been much to Eastern Europe. I was once to what was Eastern Germany. I’m pretty much done with my wondering I think, but we still go on SCUBA diving journeys every now and then. I’ve been also thinking about getting down to the Galápagos Islands. Now that we have grand kids, the time away needs to be thought out a little more carefully.
© Paul Krawczuk
SR: That all sounds fantastic with great diversity. Lastly to wrap this up, what do the next couple of months look like for you and the band?
SC: We’re getting ready to tour North America pretty extensively. We’ve got some dates in Mexico and Canada. The continental United States for sure coast-to-coast, as well. We did a lot of work out on the west coast already this winter. We’re going to be out west in the next few weeks, then mostly in the middle of the country and the east coast. Some places we go back to all the time and some places are new, but we try to route them so we can get on a tour bus and go. Sometimes we have to resort to the airlines to get from A to B and back to C. It’s going to be another year of playing the songs, turn people on and having a good time.
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For more on Stu Cook and Creedence Clearwater Revisited visit their website: