Doug “Cosmo” Clifford was the drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival, whose songbook includes classics such as “Proud Mary,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Green River,” “Down on the Corner,” “My Back Door,” “Fortunate Son,” “Travelin’ Band,” Up Around the Bend” and “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” Creedence also did smokin’ covers of “Susie Q” and “I Heard It Through the Gravevine.” The band broke up acrimoniously in 1972, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.
In 1995, Clifford and Creedence Clearwater Revival bassist Stu Cook formed Creedence Clearwater Revisited, the name change reflecting the absence of singer/songwriter John Fogerty and his late brother, Tom. This band, which not coincidentally also abbreviates to CCR, plays the hits we know and love from their days with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited will perform at the Santa Barbara County Fair in Santa Maria at 8 p.m. July 13. The show is free with paid admission into the fair, and seating is first come, first serve. Click here for more information on the show.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the Santa Maria show?
Doug Clifford: A lot of good rock ‘n’ roll, that’s for sure. If you like Creedence you’re gonna love this band.
JM: I saw you guys when you played at the Chumash Casino last summer, and thought you sounded wonderful. Is it the same lineup from that show?
DC: Yeah, it’s the same lineup. (In addition to Clifford and Cook, the band consists of vocalist and rhythm guitarist Johnny “The Bulldog” Tristao, guitarist Kurt Griffey and multiinstrumentalist Captain Steve Gunner.
JM: Creedence Clearwater Revival had a different sound from the other bands from the Bay Area at the time. From your perspective, where did CCR fit in with that scene?
DC: Well, we didn’t (laughs). Our peers laughed at us and called us the “Boy Scouts of Rock ‘n’ Roll” because we played sober, we practiced sober, and we were playing the style of music that we were playing. I mean, they just said we wouldn’t make it playing that stuff, and we said, “Well, then we’ll never make it. But we’re not gonna be something that isn’t us.” The last laugh is always the best.
JM: It’s amazing how productive the band was. For example, in 1969 you released three phenomenal albums, Bayou Country, Green River and Willy and the Poor Boys. How did you guys do it? How did you keep up that sort of pace?
DC: It was kind of silly really, but that’s how we did things. We worked every day, and as I said, even in rehearsals or practice or whatever you want to call it, everybody was straight and sober. That was the deal we made. A strong work ethic, basically. Things were easier to do because you were cognizant of what you were doing. Material would come in, or ideas, we’d work them up and figure out the drum part — I’d come up with that most of the time. We just didn’t waste any time.
We rehearsed, went into the studio, and we knocked out an album in two weeks. That’s from first going in for tracking to coming out with a finished product. We were well-prepared, I guess that’s the term.
JM: CCR played at Woodstock. I’m curious, what was your Woodstock experience like?
DC: For us, in retrospect it was great — peace and love and all of that. But on the other side of the coin it was a logistical nightmare. We were filming a TV special in L.A. for Andy Williams, and they kept having problems. Technical problems and problems with the union. So we stayed as long as we could. We finally got a decent track, and there was still feedback in it somewhere. It wasn’t our feedback, it was their feedback. We had to fly a red-eye to New York, which we hadn’t planned on doing. And then when we got there all the travel plans had changed, we weren’t going in a vehicle. All the roads were blocked — people just left their cars, abandoned them. So we had to fly into a small airport with a smaller plane, and then a little bubble two-man helicopter that ended up being a three-man helicopter flying in.
Then once we got there there had been rain and problems with electronics, and all of those things. We got on very, very late, and then had to get out. But there were moments when you could see everybody. You know, there was no violence. People didn’t have drinking water, they didn’t have food, they didn’t have shelter, they were soaking wet. But they managed to all share what they had, even with strangers. You could actually feel the energy, the positive energy. The hair on my arms stood up — I’ll never forget it. I hate to be corny, but you could feel the love that was happening there. A lot of people, naked, running around, covered with mud, some not covered with mud, just making the best possible situation out of a bad one.
JM: I don’t play drums myself, but I know that playing drums is a very physical activity, and it’s quite impressive that you’re still doing this at 68 years old. What’s your trick for longevity, being still out there pounding on the drums?
DC: Well, I eat right and I exercise. I’ve done that all my life, so that’s part of my being. I’ve got less than 10 percent body fat, I’ve got 50 beats a minute at rest with my heart rate. I just take care of
myself the best that I can, because it is a physical workout for sure, and I want to be able to play like I did when I was 25. The difference is we play twice as long now. We played about 50 minutes long in the old days, and now we play about 90-100 minutes. You know, being physically fit and having good habits and staying away from the bad ones.
JM: Do you want to set the record straight on anything regarding your career, CCR or otherwise?
DC: Well, you know you read a lot of stuff that John has said about us. I just read something about the recording process. He said, “I came in and showed them all what to play.” That’s just really not correct.
Let’s just put it this way. If you look at what we did in less than four years, and what he’s done as a solo artist, some 40-odd years, he’s had two hit records, two Top Ten singles in that period of time. He was the writer, there’s no question about that. He was a greatly gifted, hard-working guy. I would never dispute that. But to say we just sat there like bumps on logs, and he just told us everything that we had to do — that’s not correct. Those grooves — that’s why we would jam on ideas. That’s how it worked. We were very, very good about working together as a team, no matter what was going on internally. That’s what we did.
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.