An Interview With Creedence Members Stu Cook and Doug Clifford

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Stu Cook (on bass) and Doug Clifford (drums) via

Stu Cook (on bass) and Doug Clifford (drums) (Photo via

The two less-heralded members of Creedence Clearwater Revival decided to retire in 2019. Since 1995, bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford had been performing – legally – as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. In an April 2019 interview with Billboard, Cook said, “This just seemed like a good time to wrap it up.”

Cook and Clifford have long been estranged from original CCR leader John Fogerty. Cook, born April 25, 1945, said in the Billboard article that the antagonisms have softened somewhat. “We’re not sniping at each other anymore,” he was quoted as saying about Fogerty. “We’re focused on the good things about Creedence, which is where I think we should be. There were, on my part, several attempts over the years to turn the situation around, but John was never interested. And if John called me, I’d certainly talk to him. I always felt we were cheating ourselves by not at least trying (to reunite).”

Back in 2016, we spoke with Cook and Clifford. That original article follows in its entirety, unedited to reflect the news of their retirement:


It’s been more than 50 years since they formed Creedence Clearwater Revival with brothers Tom and John Fogerty, and 25+ years since they first hit the road as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, but Doug Clifford and Stu Cook are happy to Keep on Chooglin. They may have reduced their touring schedule to some 50 shows a year – down from more than a hundred when Revisited launched; for Clifford, born April 24, 1945, it means more time to spend with his family, while Cook likes to spend his down time traveling – but they still look forward to going out and performing the music they had a major part in creating.

For both Cook and Clifford, one of the real pleasures of touring is seeing how their audience has expanded. “There are now three generations of Creedence fans,” Cook says. Clifford describes playing to enthusiastic crowds who range from “eight to 80.”

Watch CCR perform “Fortunate Son” at London’s Royal Albert Hall in 1970

Creedence was arguably the most popular American band from 1969 to 1971, with four Top 10 albums and a run of nine singles in the Top 20, but what accounts for their lasting popularity? For Cook, it’s the songs. “They’re just good songs. They tell simple stories in a straightforward way.” In addition, they still “pop” when you hear them on the radio. “I don’t care what you play on either side of them, those records grab your attention; they just jump right out at you.”

Clifford, a more laconic conversationalist, simply describes them as “great rock ‘n’ roll.”

But with a catalog of seven studio albums to choose from, the band’s setlists stick to about 20 songs, including the biggest hits: “Proud Mary,” “Traveling Band,” “Up Around the Bend” and ”Down On The Corner” among them. Classic songs all. It’s not that they don’t love their more obscure tunes (“We save those for sound check,” Cook admits), but years on the road have honed their sense of what works and what doesn’t.

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“Our audiences aren’t die-hard Creedence fans who know every song on every record,” Cook explains, “they’re just rock music fans out for a good time.” Clifford says that when the band plays a lesser-known album track, the lack of interest is obvious. A song such as “Effigy” or “Tombstone Shadow” was a cue for “folks to get up, use the bathroom, or get another beer.”

But the songs they do play, Clifford and Cook both say with pride, are played as well as ever. After line-ups that have included other classic rockers such as former Cars guitarist Elliot Easton and Tal Morris from the Sons of Champlin, Creedence Clearwater Revisited has settled into a line-up of vocalist John Tristao – whose mid-60s band, People!, hit the Top 10 in 1968 with “I Love You” – Kurt Griffey and Steve Gunner on guitars, keyboard and backing vocals, with Cook and Clifford supplying the crisp, authoritative bass and drums that powered the original recordings.

At this point in the conversation, the specter of John Fogerty is impossible to avoid. Given that Creedence Clearwater Revisited performed without their famous frontman, how do they respond when fans complain that it can’t be Creedence without Fogerty? Clifford shrugs off the thought. “Maybe when we first started,” he says, “but by now, everyone knows.” Besides, he adds, their name should tip them off. Cook says that no one has come up and said anything to his face.

Watch Creedence Clearwater Revival perform “I Put a Spell on You” at the 1969 Woodstock festival

The Internet, is another thing. “It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t have to use their name.” Clifford notes. But he also shrugs off any criticism. If anyone did come up and ask, he’d tell them “We have as much right to play this music as anyone. Fogerty licensed the name, and he gets paid, so I guess he’s alright with it.”

CCR in 1969 (photo by Jim Marshall)

CCR in 1969 (Photo by Jim Marshall)

There’s no bitterness in Cook’s voice as he talks. It’s very matter of fact: at this point, the only contact he and Clifford have with Fogerty is through their lawyers. Cook and Clifford’s relationship with their former bandmate has always been fraught, to be polite. Since Creedence broke up in 1972, following a rancorous tour and the relatively disappointing sales of Mardi Gras, Fogerty has been in an almost perpetual cold war with his former bandmates. (Tom Fogerty, John’s brother, quit the a band year earlier, and died in 1990.) He has continually dismissed their contributions, accused them of being in cahoots with Saul Zaentz, the founder of Fantasy Records, Creedence’s label (famously mocked in Forgerty’s “Zanz Kant Danz”), sued to stop them from performing his songs and, when Creedence was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, refused to perform with them.

When asked if he sees any chance at rapprochement, Cook demurs. The problems, as he sees it, go back to when the band first signed to Fantasy. “We had no representation, and got a very bad deal. We weren’t the first band that’s happened to, and we aren’t the last.” He just doesn’t understand the continued bitterness. “He doesn’t seem like a happy guy, does he?” He hasn’t read Fogerty’s memoir, Fortunate Son. “I’ve heard it’s not very good, so why bother,” he says. His wife did read it, “and I could hear her laughing when she did.” That’s all the reviews he needed, he adds.

Since Creedence Clearwater Revisited refuses to play the oldies circuit, they don’t get much of a chance to compare notes with other bands. One exception, they both note, is the Doobie Brothers, another Bay Area outfit that was not embraced by San Francisco’s psychedelic scene. They run into them every now and then, and share a beer and some stories. But don’t think that Clifford and Cook are mired in the past. They both keep an ear out for new sounds. Clifford has been quite taken by Bruno Mars, who he calls “the total package, a real entertainer.” Cook, whose taste range all over the map, admires the Desert Sessions, the Queens of the Stone Age offshoot. “They really know how to build a great groove.”

But it’s the grooves they created with Creedence that take pride of place. Clifford says there’s nothing more satisfying than looking out into the crowd and seeing youngsters – kids whose parents are probably not old enough to remember when the songs were first released – rocking out to “Green River” or “I Heard It Through The Grapevine.” When he sees them, he has faith those songs will last at least another 50 years and beyond.

Related: Our Album Rewind of CCR’s Bayou Country

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s recordings are available in the U.S. here and in the U.K. here.

Steven Mirkin

10 Comments so far

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  1. Cj
    #1 Cj 5 August, 2016, 13:45

    These guys are still riding the curtails of John Fogerty’s songs!!! Shows who the REAL talent off CCR was!!!

    Reply this comment
  2. Mike L
    #2 Mike L 25 April, 2017, 01:48

    No doubt John Fogerty was the driving force in CCR. I got a chance to see Creedence revisited at a free outdoor show about 7 years ago when Elliot Easton was on guitar. He’s a great gtr player and I gotta admit I enjoyed seeing them. But it’s nowhere near as exciting as seeing Fogerty play the old tunes! It’d be great if they could all make up and play together again but since that’s not likely to ever happen I’d sooner pay to see Fogerty in concert before revisited. If it was free I’d go again..but without Elliot Easton it wouldn’t be a priority. I saw the concert for Katrina at MSG a little while after the storm tore up Nola and John Fogerty was one of the many great acts that played that night. I think he got the most rousing reception that night out of everyone that played. This was around the time when he first started playing the old Creedence tunes again and it was phenomenal seeing him up there rockin the garden!

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    • Jaws
      Jaws 23 August, 2017, 12:16

      Fogerty was the driving force behind CCR. He has made a lot of records since the split. The other band members have not so the proof is in the pudding I guess you can say.

      Reply this comment
  3. steve b
    #3 steve b 26 April, 2020, 00:53

    Fogerty doesnt have to be such a diva .Theres no reason to act like that except he’s an egomaniac.Its not their fault they got a bad record deal with Fantasy

    Reply this comment
  4. micky
    #4 micky 28 April, 2020, 16:05

    I liked their music back then but it was way over played on commercial AM radio. As for their dramatic off stage issues, who gives a shit?

    Reply this comment
  5. Timflyte
    #5 Timflyte 3 November, 2020, 02:48

    It wasn’t bad deals alone that sunk this band . From interviews and his book , John’s uncontrolled ego played a big part. No one enjoys working with a diva even at a 9 to 5 job. John’s total control and digs at the abilities of the others is enough to sink any band. I heard Tom’s solo albums recently and his vocals are fine. He should’ve been singing a few songs on the albums , even if they were covers. Both Stu & Doug worked with others ( Stu being the most successful in his country band a few decades back ) and both with Doug S. These guys are now in their 70s and they should enjoy the retired life. John too should retire. His vocals ( so great on the CCR albums and the first few solo years ) now sounds old and weak. Nothing wrong with that , but he just doesn’t have the power or the range to sing like he was 20. He should give up the past and write for his voice now like Dylan did.

    Reply this comment
  6. Luis
    #6 Luis 7 August, 2021, 12:02

    I will never understand the war between this guys; its so silly. Of course, the “war” they had against their former manager, its another matter. I think it is obvious that the leader was John Fogertym but if you do hear the late Tom Fogerty s´records, it is sad that he never got the deserved chance to add his songs to the band s´records. Interesting that Tom Fogerty s´position in the band, was similar to George Harrison, John Entwistle, Pat Simmons, and Dave Davies inside their respective bands. All, very talented musicians and composers, that were relegated to be behind someone else. The difference was, that, Harrison, Pat Simmons (Doobie Brothers), and Dave Davies, had hits with their bands. Hope one day, John Fogerty will understand that, he ended up having a successful solo career thanks to his talent but also to his former band and fans and reunite CCR one last time.

    Reply this comment
  7. JulesSB
    #7 JulesSB 19 November, 2023, 15:31

    When you agree to being in a group that is being presented as a group and operates as a group, then everyone in that group should be credited equally unless differentiation of varying degrees of credit is established to each individual from the very start. It’s unethical to change the rules of the game in the middle of the game. In this case, the group obviously is the band. Granted, the songwriter and main singer is the strong hold in the group, but still, it is a group/band. Sure, he can take leave and say f-you-guys because I’m the frontman OR he can be a gentleman, a collaborative friend/band member and say, yea, we’re a group- we all contribute in one way or another- no matter if one is in the background and one is at the front- as a group, all should be given equal acknowledgment and credit. When this essential respect is not honored, the brand/group dissolves.

    Reply this comment
  8. ODench
    #8 ODench 22 February, 2024, 14:27

    I just saw John Fogerty (almost 79 now) perform this week in Coconut Creek, Florida (fifth-row seats). He effortlessly knocked it out of the ballpark straight across “centerfield.” I have read a LOT about CCR over the years and always came to the same conclusion. Fogerty was CCR. The others were CCR wannabes, as they remain until retirement. Too bad they couldn’t lean into Fogerty’s leadership. I find it funny these two entered “retirement” after John Fogerty’s autobiography was released. Makes one wonder if the real reason they “retired” was because the true story was finally being told. John Fogerty is a legend and always will remain a legend. These two not so much. Without Fogerty, they would have remained nothing. Google their names in ten years and you won’t find much.

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  9. Keithseattle
    #9 Keithseattle 26 April, 2024, 01:37

    I read Fogerty’s book. It’s excellent. These guys just rode the CCR coat tails until they were thread bare. I can understand why they would want to get together with John. The money, the real crowds. I understand why John would have nothing to do with these guys. He’s a smart guy.

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