Hope lingesr for Creedence Clearwater revival

Posted by Mike Bell on 24 July 2013

Almost exactly two years ago, as he was heading to Calgary to perform at the Stampede Roundup, John Fogerty gave an interview to the Herald that was picked up around the globe.

It was one of the first times the singer-songwriter had gone on record softening his stance on reuniting with the two surviving bandmates in his classic rock act Creedence Clearwater Revival.

"Years ago, I looked at people and I was so full of some sort of emotion and I'd say, 'Absolutely not!' ... ," Fogerty said at the time. "But I have to admit, people have asked me more recently, and even though I have no idea how such a series of events would come to pass, I can tell that there isn't the bombast in my voice, in the denial, in the refusal. It's more like, 'Well, I dunno.' Never say never is I guess is what people tell you. In this life, all kinds of strange things come to pass. Realizing that it doesn't really kick up a big firestorm of emotion, it kind of suggests that at least if someone started talking I'd sit still long enough to listen."

It was, according to former CCR drummer Doug Clifford, news to he and bassist Stu Cook - and not entirely unwelcome news at that. "Oh, yeah," Clifford says. "We looked into it."

Well. They did. But not without a healthy dose of skepticism. As Clifford says, there were a number of "red flags" that tempered any excitement that a reunion was imminent between the musicians behind the deserving inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - an honour which the rhythm section was denied the full experience of thanks to their frontman's refusal to appear onstage let alone perform with them.

The first was that Fogerty had never contacted them directly to express any desires and that they were "disappointed to read about it in an interview."

The second and perhaps most definitive was when Clifford and Cook's manager got in touch with the singer's lawyer regarding some other unspecified business - the "channel or conduit he has set up" for any communication between the two parties - and the subject was broached.

"The big question is the article up in Canada that went to Rolling Stone, and (his lawyer) said, 'John has no interest in it, whatsoever.' So there you have it.

"That kind of pissed us of ," the drummer says, noting Fogerty has recently brought up the possibility again, something Clifford now regards only as image polishing or an attempt to get some headlines for his solo career.

"It's disingenuous. Again, if you're really serious about it, I mean, if you have one ounce of sincerity you would talk to us about it, and that hasn't happened and nothing's really changed. "

So, you know, we like the guys we're playing with now. We like it, we have fun together, why would we go back?" Well, "money" is the obvious answer, as a threefourths CCR reunion, minus Fogerty's late brother and rhythm guitarist Tom, would be a huge draw anywhere in the world - something Clifford admits.

But, as he says, that's not really much of a concern considering the guys they're currently playing with and the second career they're having in the band Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

For almost two decades now the two have been performing the many hits of their past with other players, filling what they perceived as a void created when CCR officially split in 1972 after a brief but brilliant career, and Fogerty all but disowned the band and its material. Originally it was only for private or corporate functions, but soon they found themselves being booked for more and more tours, with that now making up almost 90 per cent of an increasingly packed schedule.

"For us, we had heard for years that it would be great to be able to hear the music live again and, of course, John Fogerty had basically not performed (them) for other difficulties that he was going through, wasn't even singing these songs when we started doing it so it was good old economic supply and demand - the demand was very high and the supply was very low," Clifford says.

Or, as he sees it, the supply was high but the quality was low. For while there are seemingly hundreds of CCR tribute acts - with names like Revival, Green River, Bayou Boys, Creedence Revived, etc. - there was nobody that could provide what Clifford and Cook could.

The pair have been playing together since they were 13 years old and, he says, that history and that chemistry give them an advantage over everyone else who tackles such hits as Proud Mary, Bad Moon Rising, Have You Ever Seen the Rain and Travelin' Band.

"Well, because we sound like the records," he says. "The rhythm section is the feel of the song and that's what's created. And we're also the foundation of the song - that's how music works. ...

"There are cover bands and things like that out there but they can't do what we do. There ain't nothing like the real thing." And what Clifford and Cook themselves can't do - the vocals, the guitar and overdub parts - they've filled in with other musicians, currently John Tristao, Kurt Griffiey and Steve Gunner respectively.

Of course, rhythm section aside, the most important aspect of Revisited is the frontman duties, which Tristao has been tasked with from the very beginning. Clifford says the vocalist was the fourth person they auditioned and had all of the things they were looking for including attitude, swagger, the ability to hit some of those high notes and, most importantly, a healthy respect for the material.

That, ultimately, is why Creedence Clearwater Revisited has succeeded to the extent it has - they've even recorded a couple of albums - and why Clifford and Cook still get pleasure out of playing songs from their past, one that the memories are somewhat bittersweet toward.

And as far as what seemed to be a growing possibility when Fogerty spoke to the Herald only a couple of years ago, a proper Creedence Clearwater Revival reunion, Clifford seems to have all but closed the door on that.

"It would have been great 20 years ago, but it's too late now." he says alleging that Fogerty had no interest in even performing CCR songs until he saw the success his old bandmates were having with it.

"He sued us, of course, and then he started doing the songs again. So we actually helped him out in terms of his career because it's still the Creedence music not the solo career that is his shining star as well. ...

"The music is the legacy," Clifford says simply. "That's why it's still around."