Creed emerged from the same North Florida club circuit that spawned fellow chart-champions Matchbox Twenty. Led by singer Scott Stapp, Creed's mainstream rock sound was heavily influenced by the Doors, Pearl Jam, and the Christian psalms Stapp's father once forced him to copy down as punishment. On the band's multimillion-selling debut album, My Own Prison (#26), Stapp's dramatic baritone tackled themes of unity, tolerance, and his own spiritual crises.
The son of a Pentecostal preacher, Stapp grew up in a devoutly Christian home where rock & roll was not tolerated. Soon after leaving home, he quit his prelaw studies at Florida State University and drifted from job to job, even living in his car for a time. In Tallahassee, Stapp reunited with high school friend Mark Tremonti, who had been playing guitar for 10 years. They recruited drummer Scott Pihillips and bassist Brian Marshall and began playing club shows, drawing on lyrics that Stapp had already been writing.
The band spent $6,000 to record an album that was independently released in April 1997 on Blue Collar Records. The album had sold 6,000 CDs when Creed signed to the BMG-distributed Wind-up Records, which had the band back in the studio to refine the album's sound. My Own Prison eventually sold 4 million copies, becoming the best-selling hard-rock album in 1998. "One" (#70) and the title song became rock-radio hits.
Though pointedly not a Christian pop band, Creed has attracted a large following partly for its music's existential and theological content. The debut was followed in 1999 by the heavier Human Clay (#1), which included the hit "Higher" and "With Arms Wide Open" (#1, 2000), which won a 2000 Grammy for Best Rock Song. Creed produced the soundtrack for Scream 3, which included a new Creed song, "Is This the End?" and "What If" from Human Clay. The band also performed "Riders on the Storm" on 2000's Stoned Immaculate tribute to the Doors. By now the band endured the open disdain of critics and such contemporaries as Limp Bizkit and Blink-182. Marshall left the band in August 2000 after criticizing Pearl Jam on a Seattle radio show. He was temporarily replaced on a subsequent tour by singer/guitarist Brett Hestla (Virgos Merlot).
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).