Gary James' Interview With Marty Larkin Of
Creedence Clearwater Revival Tribute
Creedence Again is so highly regarded that they've been referred to as the next best thing to the original Creedence Clearwater Revival group! Now that's a real compliment! Marty Larkin of Creedence Again talked with us about the group.
Q - You're based out of Chicago. Is Chicago a big market place for Creedence? That city likes Creedence?
A - Well, I mean yes and no. We hardly ever play Chicago. We go where the money is. One thing I've noticed about big markets like Nashville, they don't pay the musicians anything, the cover bands. It's terrible. They play for peanuts. They play for tips. You make better money out in the middle of nowhere, smaller markets. That's kind of like it is here. It's easy to find talent in a big market like that. I'll say that. But as far as gigs go, no, we go wherever the money is. We're not a weekend, bar band at all. We never were and never will be. Everybody's got different things going on. We hope we're a little more special than just showing up and playing for 200 bucks, the whole band.
Q - That being said, you probably don't play bars. You probably play festivals and casinos. Is the money pretty good for you?
A - It can be. Everything is different. It's all perception. Some people pay a lot more than other ones. We don't play bars because they expect the band to do all the work to bring in a crowd. They themselves do hardly anything, in my experience. And yet, they keep the lion's share of the money. So, it's just not a very good proposition as far as I'm concerned. We'll do it as a router show. You know what router shows are?
Q - A router show would be if you have a gig and then you have an opportunity to play somewhere along the way to the main gig. That's a router show.
A - Right. And the router is almost always substantially less than the main gig. But that's OK because the right way to look at it is not how much you make per day, it's how much you come home with. It's always fun to play. That's a no-brainer. It's a blast. It's the smallest part of the whole thing. Most of the time you spend traveling, looking around, eating dinner, checking in, checking out, waiting at the airport. Doing the promo p.r. That's most of the time. So, the time spent on stage is really small in comparison.
Q - Waiting at the airport? How then does your gear get to the gig?
A - Do you know the word "backline"?
Q - Sure. You supply your guitars and the drummer his snare and the venue provides everything else.
A - You got it, and it's fairly common for us to fly somewhere. We have a backliner rider where we spec out the equipment they'll provide to us. It's pretty common. It fine by us. We show up, plug in, do a sound check, do the gig, pack up our guitars and snare drum and leave.
Q - Does the venue also supply hotel rooms and airfare for you?
A - Sometimes we just factor that in to our paycheck. Sometimes they do it separately. It's never the same twice. It's all negotiable. We did a private party for Pink not that long ago. She hand picked us over all the CCR tributes world-wide. We didn't know who it was. They wouldn't tell us who it was when we were negotiating. It turns out it was a surprise birthday party for her father. He was a Vietnam vet. We didn't know who it was. So we settled on a price before we knew who it was. Can you imagine if you're playing for Bill Gates? We could've got a million dollars! (laughs) We did OK on that one really, plus it looks good on the resume. She was very nice and thanked us on her Twitter account publicly. That was nice. She didn't have to do that. That was over 3 million followers at that time. I think now she has over 7 million on her Twitter account. It's never the same. We have a show on the South side of Chicago next month and that is a fundraiser. They have a lot of different tributes on the bill. So, we're only going to play for half an hour and we're going to use the house band's equipment. Just plug in, do a half hour and get out of there.
Q - Were there other celebrities in attendance at Pink's party?
A - Her husband was there, whoever that is. It was for her father, in her hometown in Pennsylvania. It was family, friends, her Dad's crowd. It was fun and kind of an honor really. We totally took care of 'em and had a really good night. That's what it is with the pros. The amateurs get nervous and crumble. The pros rise up and say "This is it. This is more like it. This is why I spent all my time learning how to play my instrument and doing all those crappy gigs getting there." Professionals rise up. They don't get nervous. They soar and that's what we did that night. It was good. It was really fun.
Q - The name of your band is Creedence Again. You took your name from Creedence Clearwater Revival and of course today there is a Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Is there any problem using the name Creedence Again?
A - Well, there's only one guy that really has any say as far as I can tell and that's John Fogerty. If you think about it, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, they're kind of a tribute band too. Think about it. They had to replace the singer. Without a singer they don't work. So no, there never has been and plus the way trademarks work, it has to be that exact combination. A lot of tributes will pick a song, one of the songs of the artists and that's the name of the band. We didn't do that because most of 'em are gone anyway. So, I just grabbed that one. I like it. The hardest part is people can't spell "Creedence". We see that all the time. Lots of typos. But that's OK. If you Google "CCR Tributes" or "Creedence Tribute", we're number one on the Google results anyway. So that's fine. We're very easy to find. I think the main reason I can explain that is because we've always had video. Always, to go with our stuff. Video is really helpful for search engine ranking. If you're in the entertainment business, you've go to give the buyers what they need to make a decision. I'm always just flabbergasted by all these musicians, which is most of them, that don't understand that very simple thing. You'll see their promo video on some home video camera back in the bar somewhere, without any kind of multi-track audio that sounds like crap. That's their promo? It's just ridiculous. I've never been like that. I am a film maker and I've always made sure we had the best video I could produce based on the budget and the time and the equipment we had. And that's what's paid off for us, for sure.
Q - You play Tom Fogerty in this band.
A - Yeah. It's not a perfect re-creation because I play lead too.
Q - So you're playing John's part as well.
A - Yeah. In the real CCR, Fogerty is singing all the songs and playing all the leads. First of all, it's not easy to find someone who can sing that stuff. It's even harder to find someone who can sing, do a good job singing and play guitar really well. So we do just fine with the singer taking care of stuff and then I do my thing. Nobody seems to complain. Nobody cares. In fact, some bands take it too far. I don't know if you know this, but John Fogerty always set up on one side of the stage. He was not in the middle. It was Fogerty stage right, then the bass player in the middle and then his brother on the other side of the stage. That's how they lined up. I have seen other tribute bands that line up like that, but I don't think anybody cares. If you're not singing well, if you have a guy who looks the part, it doesn't really matter where he's standing on stage. It's not going to go well. But if you get people who are killin' it and it's a really fun band and really get your blood going, then who cares? If you love that music and the band's doin' a really good job reproducing it, do you really care?
Q - Did you ever see the original Creedence in concert?
A - I never have. CCR broke up in like 1970, dude.
Q - I saw them in '72.
A - Really?
Q - A three piece band. Without Tom Fogerty.
A - Oh, I see. Wow! I was way too young for that. But I've never seen the band. I've seen John Fogerty 'live'. He's still doin' a good job, I would say. The reason I started doing this is I've been a musician for a long time. I'm a songwriter and I've played in original bands. I played in bar bands. I started thinking if I'm gonna keep playin' out and not my own music, I'm gonna do a tribute band because they make the most amount of money consistently. It's an industry that I saw was gonna get big and it has. It's huge. Tribute bands are huge. And they're fun. They're not the subject of ridicule anymore and haven't been for a long time. The other great thing about tribute bands is, you don't have to keep learning new songs like a Top 40 band does. You don't have to keep learning new material every other week to keep up with the latest hits. So once you know the catalog, you're pretty much set. You're pretty much playing the same songs mostly. Every show out you can change 'em up. You can play longer. You can play shorter. But you're really not learning any more songs after awhile once you have that core, say 25, 30 songs down. So I like that. Very little rehearsal required, especially if you play with really good musicians, which I do. They learn really fast and sound good right away. I like that.
Q - Was it difficult to find musicians who shared your love of Creedence music?
A - I'm on my third singer now, and the best one I might add. The first one, I heard him on MySpace. That's how long ago that was. MySpace is dead. I heard him sing and said "he's got quite a range." So I e-mailed him and said "Can you sing any CCR?" He got back to me and said "I know every song. I know 'em all." I said "We should do a tribute band, since you already know the tunes." That was the easy one and then he went his own way after I got some really great gigs with him, including WGN for the first time. Then I was working in a recording studio and I found another guy. Also a great singer. All my guys are great singers. You have to be a great singer to do this stuff. There's no choice. You gotta be really good to sing that CCR stuff. It's not easy. So the second guy I met in a recording studio and he had great pipes too. He sounded way more like John Fogerty. The first guy looked kind of like Fogerty. He didn't sound like him. He didn't have that growl. He had a great voice and did a good job singing the songs, so nobody really cared. But it turns out, a lot of agents didn't like that. So, the second guy had the growl, but didn't look good. He didn't look right at all, which is also really important in the tribute band industry. So he went his own way and now I'm just really happy. The third guy I got looks the part and sounds really good. I've already been proven right about this. If you have agents, especially in Vegas and Branson, it's about how you look a lot in the tribute band industry. You're not going to see a lot of white Jimi Hendrix tribute acts doing very well out there.
Q - You say you've seen John Fogerty in concert, but does John Fogerty know about this band?
A - I have no idea. Maybe. It's possible. I've never heard from him or any of his people. I think he probably gets a kick out of it. We're no competition to him. We're not exactly competing for the same show. Now Creedence Clearwater Revisited is competition for us. They're playing the same kind of shows. We hear it a lot that we're better than them. We hear that from a lot of people that have seen that band. To me, they're a good band and everything. They didn't write those songs. They didn't sing those songs. So what does that make them?
Q - They were part of the sound of those records. I realize John Fogerty wrote, sang, played lead guitar on those songs, but the other guys were two thirds of the group Creedence Clearwater Revival.
A - Well, I personally think that maybe you're giving them too much credit. I got news for you, speaking as a long-time musician, that drummer (Doug Clifford), (laughs), dude, tempos, sloppy fills, problematic. Unless he knows John Fogerty, I would be surprised if that guy got very far. Fogerty is their lucky charm for sure. All those guys, in my view. I'll tell you something else, I've had to let a drummer go in the past because he played too well. It didn't sound right. You know what I mean? He was playing too well, his tempo, he was on the beat. He was very precise. It sounded weird. So, if the drummer doesn't know how to slop it up, play behind the beat, play really loose, play sloppy tight, it's not gonna go well. So that should tell you. It's hard for me to rave about the rhythm section of that band. I mean, dude, I love a great drummer. Even Ringo Starr I thought was a great drummer. Charlie Watts. John Bonham. All those guys. Great drummers. I'll give credit where credit is due. Zeppelin, Stones, Beatles, Aerosmith, AC/DC, great drummers, all of them. CCR? I heard a person say it sounds like the guy's falling down the stairs with holes in his pocket. (laughs)
Q - That's terrible!
A - I actually heard that Fogerty would jump in there after hours and play the drum parts himself. That's what I heard. But who knows? I wouldn't be surprised. You kind of get the feeling that Fogerty was a real strict band leader. It's his way or the highway kind of thing. And then for some reason, those guys got it in their heads that they were songwriters too and they wanted to get their songs on their (on albums) and that was it.