Oh! That Magic! Creedence Clearwater Revisited

A revival is defined an awakening of interest in and care for matters relating to personal religion. High in the Sierra Mountains of Nevada, Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford were staging their own revival of sorts, playing the songs of an era as Creedence Clearwater Revival. They didn’t plan to revisit history, but when they did, that old, familiar magic came flooding back.

“Stu was living in LA and I was still living in the mountains near the Tahoe area. I invited his family out for the weekend to my house to check it out. There we were jamming in my studio and we decided that we needed to play. We were missing that a lot and what better songs to play,” Clifford says. “We decided if we could find the right people who could understand what we were doing and respect it that we would do it and we were able to do just that. We are going into our 22nd year.”

Creedence Clearwater Revisited will take audiences through a journey of CCR classics Jan 23 at the Thrasher Horne Center for the Performing Arts. “It’s all Creedence all night long. They are going to have a good time, no question about it,” says drummer Clifford, one half of the original and reimagined CCR rhythm section. “It’s hard to sit down so hope security is going to be reasonable. Venues have their own particular sets of rules. I don’t know what lies ahead that way but they’re going to have a good time. That’s what we do. We have a good time and we project that out to them and they send the love back. It’s a pretty cool positive energy thing between us and the audience.”

Following their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cosmo and Stu launched their Creedence Clearwater Revisited project in 1995 to perform the hit songs live in concert.  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, driven in part by new generations of fans that, says Clifford, “weren’t even born when the music came out.”   

“I love that we have more young fans than older fans now. It’s beautiful that our fan base keeps growing and we’re having fun,” he says. “A lot of times it’s just younger people coming with their friends and sometimes its whole families coming. That’s our biggest accomplishment. It’s very gratifying.”

When it was decided to go forth with the Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the original players took great care in assembling a collective of qualified musicians. Lead singer/rhythm guitar player John Tristao, the former lead singer for the band People when their hit “I Love You” broke through the top ten, is a powerful tenor with the right combination of energy and charm to motor the classic songs.

The newest touring member of Creedence Clearwater Revisited is lead guitarist Kurt Griffey.  As a guitarist, songwriter, producer and performer, Griffey has recorded and toured with notable musicians including members of the Eagles, Foreigner, the Moody Blues, Wings, Lynyrd Skynryd, Santana and Journey.  Talented multi-instrumentalist Steve Gunner rounds out the group.  Says Clifford, “Gun provides live all the overdubs that were on the records – keyboard, acoustic guitar, percussion, harmonica and the high harmonies.”

New players and industry advancements have done nothing to temper the spirit of the CCR. Clifford says the band still plays with the same passion and intensity as it did over 40 years ago. “It hasn’t changed the process. The process is kind of the heart of it. If you’re not a heart surgeon, leave the heart alone. And if you are in this arena, leave the heart alone,” he says. “It hasn’t really affected what we do. We play music the way we always have. We don’t have any sequences or samples of vocals or things that a lot of older bands depend on. I won’t mention any names but we do it the way it was done way back when with a lot of love and it works.”

There was no place in the band’s history more full of love than Woodstock and CCR was slated to perform a coveted Saturday night slot at the legendary three-day music festival. To this day, Clifford says he has no idea how the crews managed to get their equipment to the stage or how the band eventually pulled off the impossible to become part of music history.

“It was a logistical nightmare. We had a hard time just trying to get ourselves in. The weather conditions and the mass of humanity, no one was prepared for it. The audience kind of all got together and shared what they had. Even though it was wet, there was no shelter really, certainly no potable water, just the worst of conditions and there was no violence, nobody got out of hand, they just embraced the music and each other. It was spectacular. At the 25-year anniversary, they had everything there and they had a riot and burned the stage down so there you have it,” recalls Clifford.

“We were supposed to headline that Saturday night and it was in the wee hours of the morning that we finally got on stage. Some things worked, some of the things didn’t work, rain and electronics are not a good combination, but we soldiered on and got up and running. Somebody said ‘is anybody out there?’ and that was it. It was a pretty big thrill to hear that crowd roar. It was a combination of how are we going to make this work and I hope everyone is going to be alright out there but it all came together. The stage is always our sanctuary and it still is today. Sometimes it’s grueling but it’s that 90 minutes on stage that you do it for. Once we settled in and got in our comfort zone behind our instruments, it was a special night.”

Throughout the years, CCR has experienced many moments that reached if not surpassed that career defining moment at Woodstock. The Recording Academy recognized Cook and Clifford’s work in Creedence Clearwater Revival by inducting the album Cosmo’s Factory recordings into the Grammy Hall Of Fame and the 1969 recording “Fortunate Son” was added to the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry, transcending music history to become a permanent archive in the nation’s history as well.

“It’s really comparing apples and oranges when you put Woodstock up against having “Fortunate Son” in there. They both are history but it’s a different kind of history. It’s a different honor. One is you actually playing a set of songs, that live music thing which is magic. It’s the art, not the science part of it. The other part is history. It’s part of the establishment, something that’s set forth by the government really which fits because the song was sort of anti-government. I think it was a genuine nod of the head. They are different kinds of accomplishments, really 180 degrees away from each other when you think in terms of what it is we were actually doing and what was actually given to us. It is an honor, no question about that.”


About Liza Mitchell