Original Creedence bass player still going strong and sounding better than ever. Read our conversation with this true rock & roll legend!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
October 15, 2012
Bassist Stu Cook, along with Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, Tom Fogerty and John Fogerty, is a founding member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of the most successful rock bands of all time. Stu was also the bass player for Southern Pacific, a country rock band that featured John McFee and Keith Knudsen of the Doobie Brothers. Cook, along with “Cosmo,” is currently recording and touring with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, delighting audiences worldwide.
FBPO: How would you describe your musical upbringing?
SC: I was surrounded by music. My parents were both musicians. My father played the trumpet and my mother the piano and organ. There were always instruments around the house to make noise with when I was a kid. They bought me an acoustic guitar when I was about 12, and an electric a couple of years later.
FBPO: How did you become a bass player? Weren’t you originally a guitar and piano player?
SC: I was the piano player in The Blue Velvets, the original trio of Fogerty, Clifford and myself. I studied trumpet in grammar school and switched to piano in junior high school. By 1965, with the addition of Tom Fogerty as a full member in the band, we had too many guitar players. John suggested I give the bass a try.
FBPO: Who were your influences as a young student of bass?
SC: My first and foremost influence was Duck Dunn. I liked Bill Wyman, Paul McCartney, John Paul Jones, Jack Casady, Jack Bruce and all the bassists from the big bands, as well. As I grew my musical ears, the hit records with great bass parts became my next influences.
It was studio players like James Jamerson, Tommy Cogbill, Joe Osborn and Carol Kaye that really put the bass in front of millions of people like never before. It’s very cool how the bass has moved from a boomy “thump” in the rhythm section to an out-front featured instrument. There are probably more well-known and successful bassists in modern music now than any other instrument. Players like Stanley Clarke, Jaco, Victor Wooten, Marcus Miller, Damian Erskine and many more have taken the electric bass to performance heights not even imaginable twenty or thirty years ago.
FBPO: How would you describe your style, your approach to playing the bass?
SC: Less is more. I consider myself a “pick and shovel” rhythm section player. Serve the song.
FBPO: Tell me about how CCR was formed. Didn’t you start out as a group of junior high school kids?
SC: I met Doug in homeroom in 1958 and we became good friends. He was talking with John about forming a band and I think I was asked to join because my parents’ house had a big family room and a piano.
FBPO: When did things really start happening for the band?
SC: We started recording almost immediately after the Blue Velvets were formed in 1959. Tom was the singer, so we called ourselves Tommy Fogerty & the Blue Velvets when making records. Many singles were released and over nine years went by before we were reborn on the bayou. In 1967, we changed our name to Creedence Clearwater Revival and John took over the vocals. We hit the charts in the summer of 1968 with “Suzie Q.”
FBPO: I’m sure you couldn’t have imagined what the future held in store for you! What was that like? How did you handle it?
SC: We didn’t have a clue. At first, the excitement of hearing our record on the big radio stations was overwhelming. Then, after several hits, the reality of our success started to sink in. The CCR segment of our journey spanned about three and-a-half years, and it was like a rocket ride. Eventually, our rapid success would become our burden. We recorded and released three albums in 1969. We couldn’t keep up with ourselves and dissension started to creep in. The split between Tom and John was beginning to slow us down. We had no real management to help us sort through the inevitable issues and Tom eventually departed. All in all, we had a good run, but without a mentor, we were bound to hit the show biz wall.
FBPO: You must have so many stories about playing, touring, recording, etc., with CCR. Can you share just one?
SC: Creedence was touring Europe in 1972. Tony Joe White was our “special guest” on the tour and Duck Dunn was playing bass with him. Also on the tour was crazy rock photographer Jim Marshall. Doug and I bet Marshall $100 that Duck would walk on to the Royal Albert Hall stage during our set and do a “round-the-world” with his yo-yo. Marshall took the bet and just to ice it we gave Duck $50 to make sure it happened. Marshall hated to lose that bet!
FBPO: It’s great that you and Doug have kept the band going as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. What are the chances of the two of you reuniting with John Fogerty?
SC: I agree. It’s hard to believe I’ve been on the “senior rock tour” for eighteen terrific years. I’m regularly asked about a reunion with Fogerty and the answer is still the same – don’t count on it.
FBPO: What kinds of crowds make up the typical audience for your shows? A lot of the people who come out weren’t even born during the band’s heyday. Does that surprise you?
SC: We are incredibly blessed that we have an audience three generations deep. The Creedence demographic must be the widest of almost any band in history. It’s not uncommon for half of the audience to be under 25. The kids know the songs and sing along every night. Interestingly, we’ve seen this phenomenon all around the world, so it’s safe to say that people everywhere love their CCR.
FBPO: You’ve helped define a significant chapter, not only in the history of rock & roll, but in American culture, as well. What else would you like to do that you haven’t accomplished yet?
SC: I spend a considerable amount of my life traveling to experience and absorb the different cultures of the world, past and present. There’s a lot out there and I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m a jack-of-all trades and I don’t care if I master any of them. Life is too short to worry about perfection. There’s still plenty of time left to deepen my understanding and broaden my perspective on life.
FBPO: What would you be if you weren’t a bass player?
SC: Ha! See my last answer. Seriously, I can be anything that interests me, even if only for a day. We all can if we just do it with passion. Right now, playing bass is up near the top of the list.