Creedence Clearwater Revisited: “It’s just basic American music”

Creedence Clearwater Revisited is, from left, Kurt Griffey, John Tristao, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and Steve Gunner.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited is, from left, Kurt Griffey, John Tristao, Stu Cook, Doug Clifford and Steve Gunner. Photo provided

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, Creedence Clearwater Revival cranked out hit after hit of a unique blend of rock, country, and rhythm and blues. The band broke up in 1972, but the classic sound of that legendary group has been reborn through Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

Featuring the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame rhythm section from the original CCR, Stu Cook on bass and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford on drums, Creedence Clearwater Revisited will take the stage in Williamsport for a live performance at the Community Arts Center on Feb. 28.

Creedence Clearwater Revival is best known for the classic hit songs “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” “Down on the Corner,” “Fortunate Son” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” among others.

Originally formed in Northern California in 1967, CCR featured lead vocalist, lead guitarist and primary songwriter John Fogerty, rhythm guitarist Tom Fogerty, Cook on bass and drummer Doug Clifford. Despite originating in the San Francisco Bay Area, CCR perfected a Southern rock style, with songs containing lyrics about bayous, catfish, the Mississippi River, and other popular elements of Southern American life. Since the group disbanded more than 40 years ago, CCR has remained a staple of American classic rock radio.

Cook’s early musical influences included artists like Ray Charles, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Ricky Nelson — early pioneers of rock ’n’ roll. San Francisco eventually became famous for the “Summer of Love” in the 1960s, but in the 1950s, the Bay Area had a diverse culture and a great radio scene, night and rhythm and blues all day long.

“We had a lot of opportunities to explore out of pop radio,” Cook said. “Back in the ’50s, there were small local labels that represented a lot of rhythm and blues artists, and a lot of small venues for people to experience the music live. It was a great place to get my musical education.”

That musical education led to the formation of a diverse band that incorporated different styles into its repertoire. CCR’s influence can still be heard in many genres today, including southern rock, grunge, roots rock and blues.

“It’s just basic American music,” Cook said. “It’s blues-flavored, but you have some country in there, and even a little Caribbean-flavored. We touched a lot of different bases with the Creedence sound.”

After CCR broke up in 1972, the members went their separate ways, as John Fogerty pursued a solo career and had success with his hit album “Centerfield” in 1985. Cook and Clifford then played in various bands, most notably the group Southern Pacific in the 1980s, where Cook was joined by Doobie Brothers John McFee and Keith Knudsen. Founding member Tom Fogerty, John’s older brother, passed away in 1990 at the age of 48.

The music of CCR seemed to be in the past, until the band’s classic sound was resurrected one day in 1995. Cook and Clifford were hanging out, living in a small Sierra Nevada town and found themselves with too much time on their hands, so they decided to put a band together.

“It just kind of came out of wanting to get back in the business,” Cook said. “We didn’t have an album, and we didn’t have a plan. We just sort of threw it out there and wanted to see if anybody cared.”

After they formed the band, Creedence Clearwater Revisited began touring, performing the old CCR songs for audiences worldwide. The band’s current lineup consists of Cook on bass and backing vocals, Clifford on drums and percussion, John Tristao on lead vocals, Steve Gunner on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals, and Kurt Griffey on lead guitar.

When Cook and the band first started playing live, they were quite surprised at how young the audience had become. Now 20 years later, there are more Creedence fans.

“We’ve got three solid generations of fans now, and we’re working on a fourth,” Cook said. “It’s thrilling to see that so many young people enjoy listening to the music. When radio got broken up into different formats, the creation of classic rock really helped focus for the fans where to find the music. So that worked out great for us.”

Cook sees Creedence Clearwater Revisited for the most part as a live performance project and says the band really has no interest in going into the studio and adding to the great catalog that is Creedence.

“We’re trying to stick to our original premise, which is to take the music to the fans again and have some fun,” he said. “We just want to go out and play the music, have some fun, have successful concerts, a good time with our fans, and go to the next town and do it again.”