Doug Clifford brings reconstituted ‘Creedence’ to Paramount
Doug? Mr. Clifford?
“Call me Cosmo,” came the laid back voice over the phone lines. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer preferred to use his decades-old nickname as he spoke to the Long Island Weekly from his home near Lake Tahoe.
Clifford was an integral member of Creedence Clearwater Revival, one of those rare artistic entities who were both great and popular, as well as influential. You won’t be able to see CCR in concert anymore; original member Tom Fogerty died in 1990, and guiding light, lead singer and chief songwriter John Fogerty has long been estranged from Clifford and bassist Stu Cook.
But you can still experience the closest thing to that quartet, which in 1969 and 19670 was “bigger than the Beatles” as the world’s best selling band.
Clifford and Cook now lead Creedence Clearwater Revisited, who will visit The Paramount in Huntington on Sunday, June 26 at 8 p.m. The rhythm section formed the band in 1995 and have toured since, releasing a platinum-selling live album and enjoying seeing what Clifford called “the single digits,” or grandchildren of Creedence’s original fans. Multigenerational families now attend.
“It’s an amazing phenomenon,” Cosmo said of the concert experience and the new generation of fans. “I don’t question it. I just accept it.”
“They’ll experience a lot of energy,” he promised concertgoers. “We have a great band and play the songs the way they’re supposed to be played. We added a few subtleties here and there to make them a bit different, but the heart and soul of the songs are there.”
One of the defining moments for Clifford came when he was 12, seeing legendary jazz drummer Gene Krupa on TV, resplendent in a white sport coat and anchoring a big band.
“I said, ‘Wow! I want to do that, but I want to play rock and roll,’ ” Clifford related.
Clifford began saving his allowance to buy his first drum. It didn’t come with a stand, so he used his mother Jennie’s flowerpot stand (Jennie is 93 and still with us, Cosmo said).
The Palo Alto native was attending Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito—south of Oakland and across the bay from San Francisco. One day he passed by the music room and heard a Fats Domino (or Little Richard, or both—the accounts differ) song being played on the piano. Rock and roll was forbidden in the Clifford household while his father, Bud, was around. Intrigued, Cosmo started a conversation with what he called “a skinny little kid.” That, of course, turned out to be John Fogerty. The pair began rehearsing (one time for seven straight hours, according to Fogerty’s autobiography). Soon, Clifford’s friend Cook joined the young band to form an instrumental trio.
Later, John’s older brother Tom came aboard, and Clifford said that this was a big development; Tom had the vision and drive to send out demos and try to get the group a contract. The quartet played under different names, eventually settling on Creedence Clearwater Revival in 1968. For the next few years, until festering tensions and animosities split the group, they gained enormous financial and critical success.
After the breakup, in 1972, Cosmo kept busy. He raised a family, built a home studio and recorded and advised local acts. He performed at charity concerts, became part of the Sir Douglas Quintet and had other recording credits.
Clifford and Cook formed Revisited in 1995.
The Music Biz
Clifford sees no irony in John Fogerty receiving royalties from Revisited playing his enduring compositions.
“That’s fine by us, that’s the way it should be,” Cosmo noted, bemoaning the trend toward streaming digital and how “musicians have been screwed.”
“There’s no money in it,” he said of streaming, although “you get a decent enough royalty from Apple downloads.”
Clifford said that the internet has been both good and bad, enabling bands to get exposure, but also habituating a generation of music consumers to the idea that they can get music without paying for it. He asked rhetorically how anyone who worked for a living would feel about giving up the paycheck at the end of a working week.
Clifford counts himself among the lucky ones in what he called a “tough business…it’s either feast or famine and most people are in the famine category.”
“Creedence put me in a good spot financially,” he said of his original outfit. “[Stu and I] are in that teeny percentile.”
The wisdom that comes from decades in the business has been put to good use in Revisted, Cosmo noted, with a more collegial style (in contrast to a dominating figure such as Fogerty).
“We have a great team, and it’s been that way from day one,” Clifford said. “Stu has a business degree and we run a very tight ship.”
Clifford assured his interviewer that, at 71, he is in no way bored of performing the same cluster of classic songs.
“I never get tired of playing,” he said. “The journey continues. Each day there is more appreciation [of what we’re doing] and it’s been an honor to have been part of it and we want to keep it moving forward.”
You could say—with apologies to John Fogerty—that Clifford has also been a “fortunate son” when it comes to music.
Tickets are $40-$79.50. The Paramount is at 370 New York Ave., Huntington. Call 631-673-7300 or visit paramountny.com.
Cosmo’s Short Bites
The Beatles On Ed Sullivan:
“That had a life-changing impact,” Clifford affirmed. “We had been talking about packing it in. But when we saw them playing American rhythm and blues and rock and roll, it gave us renewed faith that we could do it too.”
First Record He Owned:
At age 9, Clifford bought a 78 rpm by Etta James, “Roll With me, James.”
Some Favorite Creedence Songs:
- “Born on the Bayou”—“Always a good one.”
- “Suzie Q”—“We stretched it out. A terrific groove with a great guitar sound.”
- “I Put A Spell On You”—“A 6/8 song, with minor chords. It’s got power.”
- “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”—“A tremendous solo guitar.”
On Jazz Drumming:
“There’s a huge difference [from rock]. I play it when there’s no one around (laughs). I wasn’t good at it.”
Al Jackson Jr. of Booker T. and The M.G.’s—“A mentor of mine. Played on all the great Stax recordings.”
Earl Palmer, an early and prolific session musician inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Hal Blaine, drummer on the classic Beach Boys recordings and many others—reportedly “played on more hit records than any drummer in the rock era,” according to his Wikipedia entry.
Some Contemporary Colleagues:
Ringo Starr—“One of the most underrated drummers. Helped shape the Beatles’ sound. I thought he did a terrific job.”
Charlie Watts of the Rolling Stones—“Also underrated. Always there, setting up the foundation.”
“They don’t get the credit they deserve,” he added regarding Starr and Watts.
John Bonham of Led Zeppelin—“A power drummer with super technical skills.”
“There are so many great guys out there,” Cosmo said of his fellow time-keepers.
Praise For Cosmo
“I think Doug Clifford is awesome…his fat perfect backbeat, his tuning, his minimalist kit.… He was always spot on. Things like ‘Graveyard Train’—so hard to keep that perfectly timed simplicity!…He could do fills and complicated and fast cross rhythms too—syncopated crashes. Songs, whether soft or slow, never dragged, always had energy and groove. He never got in anyone’s way.…Doug Clifford deserves all his immortal fame as one of rock’s supreme drummers.”
—Steven L. Hamelman, drummer and author of But Is It Garbage
From The Press Release
Lead singer/rhythm guitar player John Tristao, a powerful tenor with the energy and charm to motor the classic songs, initially rose to prominence as lead singer for the band People when their hit “I Love You” bulleted into the top ten.
The newest touring member of Creedence Clearwater Revisited is lead guitarist Kurt Griffey. As a guitarist, song writer, producer and performer, Griffey has recorded and toured with notable musicians including members of the Eagles, Foreigner, the Moody Blues, Wings, Lynyrd Skynryd, Santana and Journey. Talented multi instrumentalist Steve Gunner rounds out the group.
In 2013, Classic Rock Revisited critic Jeb Wright wrote about a Creedence Clearwater Revisited concert he attended. “The true test of any concert is how the music makes you feel. On this night, this writer walked away with a wonderful feeling, having just witnessed timeless, historical music, performed to perfection. Creedence Clearwater Revisited not only looks to the past, performing iconic songs, they bring them to the modern day, reminding us all of the true importance of this music.”