Imagine the San Francisco Bay Area circa 1967, and any number of landmark moments in rock & roll history come to mind—the Grateful Dead on the steps at 710 Ashbury St., Jefferson Airplane expanding minds at the Fillmore, Janis Joplin belting it out at the Human Be-In. Of course, there was more to the local music scene than free love and flowers. Across the Bay, greasy East Bay beats were heating up at the hands of players like Larry Graham, Francis Prestia, and Paul Jackson. Up around the bend in sleepy El Cerrito, California, an entirely different flavor of swamp-soaked grooves was percolating courtesy of Tom and John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and Stu Cook, better known as Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR would crank out seven albums and a number of hit singles until internal tension ripped the band apart in 1972. Cook and drummer “Cosmo” Clifford moved on to play together in the Don Harrison Band, and Stu took the place of bassist Jerry Scheff in the pop country band Southern Pacific in 1986. In 1995, Cook and Clifford teamed up to form Creedence Clearwater Revisited. After a few years in fits and starts, CCRev is back on the road this year, playing all the classics to an ever-expanding fan base.
How did you get your start in music?
My first instrument was trumpet, and I played piano in the Blue Velvets, which was the instrumental trio John Fogerty, Doug Clifford, and I had in junior high school. I switched to rhythm guitar, and then I finally rented a Fender P-Bass from Leo’s Music in Oakland back in the mid ’60s. I liked bass—you played one note at a time, and you got paid as much as everybody else!
What was the music you were raised on?
The San Francisco Bay Area saw a huge transformation during World War II. People came from all over the country to work in the ports and bases, and they brought their music with them. In the East Bay, there was a lot of R&B, and at night, we could hear the country station broadcasting from Sacramento. So we had an outrageous cross-section of urban and rural music as kids.
Creedence came up alongside the bands that defined the San Francisco Sound. Did you consider yourselves part of that community?
We did, but we weren’t part of the San Francisco scene per se. We were East Bay boys, and what we were doing was different. We were raised on AM radio—two-three-minute length songs. We could jam a song, but we weren’t a jam band.
How has your approach to bass tone changed through the years?
Back then, there was not a lot of note definition. These days, I like a more full-frequency tone; it needs to be centered somewhere in the lower midrange so it has its own space. Now I play with a pick, because I’m looking for note definition. I like Dunlop Jazz II picks—they’re a little bit smaller than typical picks, but real pointy. I like that it’s a precision tool.
Where in the CCR set list do you use effects?
I use a Pickle Pie B on the signature riff on “Suzie Q,” and I use it a little bit on “Born On The Bayou.” I also use chorus in “Long As I Can See the Light,” “Midnight Special,” and “Feelin’ Blue.” On my Tone Hammer head, I run the gain down and the drive up, which gives some great distortion. As it turns out, adding a bit of grind makes everything blend better. And girls love distortion, you know—especially on the bass!
You and Cosmo have played together for more than 50 years. How would you characterize the pocket you create?
We keep it simple, so there’s a lot of room to groove.
Who are some of the players you keep an eye out for?
I really admire guys like Bryan Beller and Damian Erskine and of course, the generation before with Marcus Miller and Victor Wooten. Those guys knock me out not only with their talent, but with the way they’ve adapted and incorporated devices. It’s largely a young man’s game out there, and I have to admit being too comfortable sometimes. I’m glad that Cosmo and I still have a job—we tell each other that we’re on the Senior Rock Tour!
There’s nothing wrong with that.
There really isn’t. We’re having the time of our lives. It’s so great to see so many Creedence fans, younger ones especially, around the world. We’re really blessed. Fogerty wrote some great songs for the band with a great catalog and continued airplay and ever-growing fan base. I think we probably have more fans now than we did back in the heyday. As Chris Rock would say, “Cornbread—ain’t nothing wrong with that!”
Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Singles Collection [Fantasy, 2009]
Bass Mike Lull PJ5 with Seymour Duncan pickups and Stellartone ToneStyler
Rig Aguilar Tone Hammer 500, SWR Goliath III 4x10 cabinets
Strings Dunlop Nickel, .045–.130
Picks Dunlop Jazz II
Effects Wren & Cuff Pickle Pie B, MXR Bass Envelope Filter, MXR Bass Chorus Deluxe, DigiTech HT-6 PolyChromatic Tuner
Other Planet Waves cables and accessories