Members: Scott Stapp, Mark Tremonti, Brian Marshall, Scott Phillips
Creed emerged from a good-sized pack of post-grunge contenders to become one of the biggest-selling rock bands in America during the late '90s. At a time when many other Seattle disciples were lapsing into inactivity or experimenting with less commercially established sounds, Creed carried the torch of straightforward, grungy hard rock without apology, and they were amply rewarded, selling millions upon millions of albums in just a few years' time. That success didn't translate into critical acclaim; most reviewers slammed their music as derivative and formulaic, and their outlook as relentlessly, stiflingly serious (which got at the very qualities that made the band so popular). Based on their frequently spiritual lyrics, some observers lumped them in with a new breed of alternative-styled Christian bands that had begun crossing over to the mainstream; however, Creed tried to distance themselves from being pigeonholed as an exclusively religious band out to convert their listeners. Neither critical derision nor a potential secular backlash could derail the band, however, and they went into the new millennium as a seemingly unstoppable commercial juggernaut.
Creed was formed in 1995 in Tallahassee, FL, by vocalist Scott Stapp and guitarist Mark Tremonti, who had been friends in high school but initially went their separate ways. Stapp had been studying law at Florida State University, but eventually dropped out to pursue music, a decision that led to conflict with his anti-rock & roll parents (his father was a Pentecostal minister). Stapp and Tremonti began writing songs together, many of which obliquely addressed themes of Christian spirituality, and added a rhythm section consisting of bassist Brian Marshall and drummer Scott Phillips. As an alternative to the band's original name (Naked Toddler), Marshall suggested the name Creed, having played in another band dubbed Mattox Creed. Creed soon went on to form their own label, Blue Collar, and entered the studio with producer John Kurzweg in 1997 to record their first album, My Own Prison. Initially self-released in a limited run, My Own Prison was picked up by Wind-Up Records -- a fledgling imprint with distribution through Sony -- and remixed to give it a heavier, more radio-friendly punch. And it worked. Given major-label exposure, My Own Prison spun off no less than four number one singles -- "My Own Prison," "Torn," "What's This Life For," and "One" -- on Billboard's mainstream rock radio charts over the next year, making Creed the first band to accomplish the feat with its debut album. My Own Prison sold like hotcakes, moving over five million copies over the next couple of years despite little MTV exposure or media coverage.
Creed had a great deal of competition in the post-grunge sweepstakes at the time, and it remained to be seen whether they had any staying power, or were simply fortunate one-album wonders (like some of their peers turned out to be). When they issued their follow-up, Human Clay, in the fall of 1999, My Own Prison was still on the charts and selling respectably well. Human Clay turned out to be a blockbuster, not only entering the charts at number one (much to many observers' surprise), but selling a whopping ten million copies over the next two years. The first single, "Higher," spent a record-breaking 17 weeks at number one on rock radio, and when their next two singles, "What If" and "With Arms Wide Open," topped the chart as well, it gave the band seven consecutive rock-radio number ones -- another record. "With Arms Wide Open" also gave Creed their first number one pop hit, and later won a Grammy for Best Rock Song.
During the summer of 2000, Creed bassist Brian Marshall made headlines for criticizing Pearl Jam's recent songwriting style during a radio interview; he later apologized, and Stapp distanced the rest of the band from Marshall's comments on Creed's website. A couple of months later, just before the official start of the band's American tour, it was announced that Marshall was no longer a member of Creed. He was replaced for the tour by Brett Hestla (also of Virgos Merlot), and later formed a new band called Grand Luxx with his old Mattox Creed bandmates. The same summer, Stapp was goaded into a brief media feud with Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst, who launched into a profane tirade against Stapp at a summer rock-radio festival both bands were playing. Although Stapp later blasted Durst's business tactics (as senior VP at Interscope), saying they stemmed from a "mobster mentality," things didn't take long to settle down. The band worked on its new album over much of 2001; although Hestla remained in the touring lineup, Tremonti chose to handle the bass parts on the record, keeping things down to just the longtime core. Weathered was released in November 2001, and not only entered the charts at number one, but tied a record (among number one debuts) by remaining there for eight straight weeks; during that two-month time, it sold a staggering five million copies. The first single, "My Sacrifice," was a Top Five pop hit, also spending nine weeks on top of the rock-radio charts. Follow-up "Bullets," one of the band's heaviest songs yet, wasn't as successful, but "One Last Breath" climbed the charts quickly behind it.
In April 2002, Stapp was involved in a car accident and suffered a concussion and vertebrae damage. Creed initially canceled the rest of their supporting tour, but fortunately, Stapp recovered quickly enough to allow the band to reschedule most of the shows for summer. After months of speculation, Wind-up officially announced the break up of Creed in June 2004. Over nearly a decade, the band sold over 30 million albums worldwide and became one of the biggest touring draws of the 1990s. Founding members Mark Tremonti, Scott Phillips, and Brian Marshall went on to form Alter Bridge with ex-Mayfield Four frontman Myles Kennedy. Plans for a Scott Stapp solo record, which had included a collection of songs inspired by Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, eventually came to fruition with the release of The Great Divide in November 2005, a back-to-basics rock record. ~ Steve Huey, All Music Guide