Quick Stats: Stu Cook, bassist, Creedence Clearwater Revival/Revisited
Daily Driver: 2012 BMW 650i (Stu’s rating: 9.5 on a scale of 1 to 10)
Other cars: See below
Favorite road trip: Pacific Coast Highway
Car he learned to drive in: 1941 Chevy
First car bought: 1957 Chevy
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame bassist Stu Cook’s 2012 BMW 650i was meant to be a gift for his wife. Until he drove it home from the dealer.
“I wasn’t really interested in buying a car, but my wife thought that I should buy her a car,” he says, laughing. “The busiest car day is New Year’s Eve, trying to blow the inventory out, so we’re having a New Year’s Eve party, she leaves me at the dealer to sort it all out. … I finally got the transaction completed, and I’m driving the car home. I realized, ‘You know what? I think I’m going to keep this car. I like it.’ That was it. I sold my Corvette and kept the Bimmer.”
Cook drove his new car back to his house in time for the party. “My wife was a little disappointed when I wasn’t going to let her have the keys,” he says with a laugh.
“It’s a fun car to drive, it’s comfortable, it’s a little on the cushy side,” he says of the BMW. “The bucket seats aren’t as tight as some other models. It’s got a lot of get up and go, it’s a twin turbo. I’ve only looked under the hood once or twice to add washer fluid. I put the top down [and] drive around nice balmy Florida nights.”
Since the early days of Creedence Clearwater Revival, of which he’s an original member, Cook has been through his share of cars, including Acuras, Lexuses, Cadillacs, and his Corvette. “I like all the cars I’ve owned, even my Peugeots,” he says. “The 403 was better than my 404. Back in the mid to late ’60s I was driving my 403 Peugeot.”
Cook likes to hold onto his cars for years. “This is my keeper car. With the few miles that I drive every year, there’s really no need to replace a $105,000 car. Ever. I’ve only got 21,000 miles on it,” he says, laughing. “I don’t do a lot of driving.”
Car he learned to drive in
Cook grew up in El Cerrito, California, where he learned to drive in a 1941 Chevy he bought at 14 with a kid who lived up the street.
“One of the neighbors was a contractor, and he owned the lot next to his house, which was two doors down from my house. So he let us park the car in this completely level building lot. It wasn’t for sale, it was just prepared to built on. We would start the car up and drive around in this 200-by-200-square-foot area,” he says with a laugh, then adds that it could have been 200 by 200 yards. “Whenever we weren’t driving it around, of course under adult supervision, we were pretending like we were driving. We were turning the wheel left and right, left and right. Finally, we ruined the steering.”
Cook learned to drive from his neighbor’s dad, who also taught him to shift. “He would be the supervisor when we were driving around in this … large undeveloped lot, elevated from the street, so nobody could really see what was going on up there. On Saturdays he would let us drive around in this lot—shift, back it up, turn, stop, just get a feel.”
The car Cook first drove on the street was a 1949 Chevy Club coupe his dad bought him for his 16th birthday, and the car came without a back seat.
“It was sort of a salesman’s car, so they could put all their sales samples in the back. It was my first high school car. My second high school car was a ’57 Chevy. A really nice Bel Air coupe,” he says.
His dad made sure he knew how to properly drive in that 1949 Chevy, but by then Cook had pretty much figured it out for himself. “We used to steal the family cars when my folks would go play golf. My brother and I would take the car they left in the garage and take it joy riding,” he says. “That’s what we did when he was 13 and I was 15. We could drive, and automatic transmissions were just becoming vogue back in the ’50s, so most cars were still standard shift. So we learned on standard shifts, and then we would joy ride in our parents’ cars, which were automatics. We didn’t have to work so hard.”
First car bought
Cook saved money from odd jobs to buy a 1957 Chevy. “I had construction jobs during the summer—jack hammer, driving trucks, shoveling garbage in the trucks, stacking hard wood, delivering hard wood to housing sites,” he says. “In my senior year in high school I drove a pharmacy delivery car and stocked shelves at the drugstore, worked at the soda fountain. Cars were cheap back then. The ’57 Chevy was used, very low mileage. It only cost me $3,000,” he says.
His friend’s parents owned a dealership, and when he’d saved enough money from working, he traded in the 1957 Chevy there. “It was the classic white top with eggshell blue, a pastel blue body—a Bel Air two-door coupe, no window post. It’s really a beauty. I drove that through my senior year in college,” he says. “Had that car for about five years.”
Cook got into hot rodding when he owned that car. “I pulled the engine out and put a 327 Chevy engine in it and converted it from column shift to floor shift,” he says. “We used to go to the drag races all the time.”
There were unsanctioned drag races in Vacaville, California, at the old Vacaville airport. “We had a lot of fun with cars, there was a car culture. HOT ROD magazine was the most important thing you could get every month. It was really becoming the super car culture back then, with all the guys painting cars, hot-rodding cars, paint jobs, lowering cars. My brother had a ’28 Model T pickup truck. It was an open-cab roadster and had a little pickup truck bed on it. It had a big hot rod engine with a supercharger on it. This was when he was living in Australia in the ’80s or ’90s, that was his normal transportation car,” he says, with a laugh. “He would take it for joy rides, and the police would call and say, ‘Hey, someone’s got your car goofing off.’ This being his wife.”
Cook’s 1957 Chevy was one of the nicer older cars in his high school. “The really well-to-do kids were driving brand-new Chevy Impalas—’62s, ’63s. I preferred the ’59. It had those really big fins. It looked like a cat eye from the rear. Beautiful car. People knew these were going to be classic cars,” he says.
Cook went out on dates in that Chevy (photos of Cook playing courtesy Jeff Dow). “We went to the motor movies, the drive-in, and drank beer,” he says, laughing. “We’d find someone to buy us booze and drive us home when we got too drunk.”
Although he enjoyed his 1957 Chevy, his funnest car was his first—the 1949 Chevy. “A lot of first dates in that car, a lot of memories. It ran well, there was a lot of room to get under the hood and work on it. Blew many transmissions and even blew a couple of rear ends out of that racing in it,” he says. “I got to be a pretty good mechanic, and I still have a really fine set of automotive tools, wrenches and socket sets, from working on cars. I got to know my automobile from the inside out.”
That 1949 Chevy was his “first experiment,” as Cook calls it, in getting into cars. “The ’57 just followed. I took it to Tijuana and got it upholstered. I had to stand there and watch them and make sure they didn’t stuff the seats full of pot,” he says. “The scam back then was if you weren’t looking, they would upholster your car for practically nothing. And stuff the seats full of weed, then you pay them and head toward the border, and then they’d arrest you at the border.”
Favorite road trip
Hands down, Cook’s favorite road trip is Highway 1. Although he’s done it countless times, his favorite memory was the drive he took with his now wife around 2003 or 2004.
“My favorite drive on that was north to south, which put me on the ocean side. We started in San Francisco. I was living in Incline Village, Nevada, at the time, so we drove to San Francisco and caught the Pacific Coast Highway and drove down, stopping along the way,” he says. “Stopped in Carmel for a night, stopped in San Simeon, the Hearst Castle for a night and made it down to L.A. It took two to three days to do it. A lot of fun, a beautiful drive, some of the finest scenery you’ll see anywhere.”
What makes this Cook’s favorite drive was the shared experience. “It was with my bride to be, we were just dating at the time, so it was all pretty electric, as new relationships can be,” he says. “Overall, that particular trip is memorable. I’ve driven the car all over the place. That one sticks in my mind.”
Cook made the same drive in his 2002 Corvette convertible, with the top down. “That was a great car, as well. I’m kind of sorry I let go of that. I gave up that one for the Bimmer,” he says.
Cook has been up and down Highway 1 his whole life, being a California kid, but that particular trip will also remain his favorite road trip since it was in his Corvette. “That’s the perfect road for that car. The Corvette is probably one of the best values ever made by anybody,” he says. “You can buy a Ferrari, it might be as fast, it might handle a little better, but you’re going to pay four or five times as much, if you’re lucky. I’d say that, dollar for dollar, you can’t beat a Corvette.”
Creedence Clearwater Revisited Final Revival Tour
This is the last formal season for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a band Cook has toured with for 25 years. This year also coincides with the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, which Cook took part in as a member of Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
“My legacy is of course forever tied to Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’d been playing with those guys since I was in junior high school. We just kept at it until people couldn’t say no anymore,” he says with a laugh. “We finally got our shot at the brass ring.
“Creedence Clearwater Revisited has been honoring and celebrating the music of the original quartet to happy fans all over the world,” Cook says. “I’ve personally been in over 60 countries. We’ve played all over North, Central, and South America, Asia, Australia, New Zealand. We’ve played a lot in Europe.”
He regularly sees three generations of fans in the audience. “For some people it’s nostalgic, and other people, they’re never going to see the real band, so it’s as real as it’s ever going to get,” he says. “It’s about the music, not necessarily about who’s in the band. Doug and I are original members, we’re the original rhythm section of Creedence, and we’ve picked people who understand our concept, and they’ve been able to help us do a faithful re-creation.”
Cook’s years on the road haven’t just been about honoring his original band, but also getting out of the house and having fun. “I’m a musician, and the story goes, the kid says to his mom, ‘When I grow up, I want to be a musician.’ She says, ‘Son, you can’t do both!'” Cook says.
For more information about the dates on the Creedence Clearwater Revisited final revival tour, visit credence-revisted.com