July 18, 2018 Interview – Doug Clifford A Founding Member of Creedence Clearwater Revival
Arguably one of the biggest Rock-n-Roll bands of all time, Creedence Clearwater Revival forged a legacy all their own. Initially coming together when all four original members were only teenagers, they would go on to hone their skills as musicians and craft a sound unique to their band alone.
Now celebrating fifty years since the release of their self-titled debut album, the story of Creedence Clearwater Revival continues to be told by founding Drummer Doug Clifford and Bassist Stu Cook with the band Creedence Clearwater Revisited. A passion project that came together over twenty years ago, Clifford and Cook continue to recapture the magic of their impeccable rhythm section while bringing the classic tunes of Creedence Clearwater Revival to fans everywhere. Still excited about the music, Doug “Cosmo” Clifford took the time to chat about Creedence Clearwater Revival, the re-release of his solo album Cosmo, touring, plus much.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in Rock-n-Roll for nearly six decades now. From the success of Creedence Clearwater Revival to your solo work, studio work, and beyond, briefly tell us, how would you describe this journey in music?
Doug Clifford – Eclectic, really. I have a lot of different tastes and been involved in a lot of different projects. On the other hand, Creedence has been the biggest success, obviously. It has carried on for 50 years. This year is actually the 50th anniversary of Creedence Clearwater Revival. We are in our 23rd year with Creedence Clearwater Revisited as well. It’s been pretty cool!
CrypticRock.com – It certainly has been a career of longevity. Creedence Clearwater Revival attained a massive amount of success over seven studio albums and a ton of memorable songs. When things were going well, do you have fond memories of the band?
Doug Clifford – Of course. When they are going well, you always have fond memories. When they go to hell, and they are not doing well (that sounds like a line from a song), it’s not so much fun. That’s just life. There was a lot of pressures and other things that were lacking, or an abundance of things that just weren’t right. We were fortunate to come out with a terrific legacy of music and that’s what I hang my hat on.
CrypticRock.com – Rightfully so. As mentioned, following Creedence Clearwater Revival’s dissolvement, you went on to do solo work as well as play with The Don Harrison Band, among others. As someone who had spent a large portion of your playing career with Creedence Clearwater Revival, was it initially odd for you to work on other projects?
Doug Clifford – Initially it was, because people are different. We had a set way of doing things. With Creedence, we started when we were 13 years old. That’s most of my life, and this point, it is definitely most my life. That also gave us a very distinctive sound, because we were learning to play our instruments at the same time we were recording and learning to make records. That’s why when you hear a Creedence record, it doesn’t sound like it’s from the ’60s, it sounds like it could be a band now, it’s pretty cool.
Another artist you have to put into my repertoire post Creedence would be Doug Sahm. I did three albums with him, two of which I produced, and all which I toured behind with him. I had a lot of fun with him, he was a hugely talented guy that is no longer with us unfortunately.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, you certainly have done a diverse mix of things. As you mentioned, you began with Creedence at 13, learning as you went. Would you say that experience helped you moving forward in future projects?
Doug Clifford – Yes, that is exactly the point. When young, 13 is pretty darn young, you are just learning to become a musician, and you do it as a unit. You did the same thing in the studio, we were a recording unit. As I say, that’s what gives us our special star.
CrypticRock.com – There is no question about it. It was around 1995 that yourself and Stu Cook got together to form Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Now over 20 years since, what inspired the formation of the band?
Doug Clifford – A couple of things really. He was in LA and I was living up in Lake Tahoe – which is a beautiful Alpine Lake and gorgeous environment to live. He was going to move back up to the Bay area, in the big city – going from one big city to another. I said, “Before you make a decision on where you’re going to live, bring your family up and spend a week with me at my house. See what you think.” They loved it, they bought a house, and when we were jamming, it was pretty boring with just bass and drums. (Laughs)
We knew we needed a band, and what better project could we do than these songs? Nobody had played them, John Fogerty wasn’t playing them, refused to play them. People would practically tell us daily, “Gosh, it would be great to hear the music live. I never got a chance to hear you guys, or I wasn’t born when you guys were out.” That’s how it started. We knew we needed a band and we wanted to play those songs, we hadn’t played them in 25 years.
CrypticRock.com – It has worked out well and continues all these years later. At the focal point of it is yourself and Stu, two founding members of Creedence Clearwater Revival. How would you describe the chemistry you two share?
Doug Clifford – We’re brothers. When I say autopilot, that sometimes insinuates that your disengaged and you are not really into it. This is a different type of autopilot, we are totally engaged. We know what each other’s thinking. It’s like riding a bike. It’s a very comfortable thing to know your playing with your buddy you have been in the trenches with for 60 years. (Laughs) It’s unique, especially with this business.
CrypticRock.com – That is very special and not something you see everyday. The touring has been a success with fans really digging the show you put on. What has it been like working with the set of musicians a part of the band at this time?
Doug Clifford – It’s terrific. One of the criteria is you have to understand the role of what you’re doing with these songs. These songs are special and iconic. The first thing I would say about anyone who has come in, these guys are fans. They grew up on this music, especially guitar players that know about Creedence – it’s a good way to learn how to play guitar. They understand.
They also understand, we don’t want them copying. We want them playing the music the way it’s supposed to be played. That gives it a different feel, and the feel of a Rock-n-Roll record is trenches. The rhythm section is what really sets the pace for a Rock-n-Roll song, it’s the foundation if you will. We’ve got that, that’s what Stu and I do. It makes it a nice platform for the other guys to do what they are supposed to do to make these songs sound as good as they should.
CrypticRock.com – This is a seasoned group of musicians you are working with. Everyone has a story, everyone has done this a while now.
Doug Clifford – Yes, they are all pros. It requires a person who really understands something different. There aren’t a lot of groups out there that have the legacy of the music we have. That’s one thing. Another is, respect it, love it, and perform it the way it should be done. That’s the whole enchilada, really.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly. When yourself and Stu got together over twenty years ago, you had considered yourself retired. Could you have imagined two decades later you would be out rocking and rolling?
Doug Clifford – I was semi-retired, I should have said it that way. I still had music projects, I had a studio in my house, and I was doing a lot of songwriting during that period of time. I would go out and do a Doug Sahm album. I still had my foot in it, but it wasn’t like it is now, I have a job now. (Laughs) When I was in college, I had a regular job putting myself through school, but working as a musician and trying to make a living in those days, would have been an impossibility. You just can’t make it. It’s very difficult and there are some terrific musicians out there struggling. The economics of being a professional musician and being able to pay the rent and put food on the table is very tough.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and nowadays the challenges remain because, sadly, people are not buying records. You really have to be a touring musician to sustain yourself.
Doug Clifford – You’re exactly right.
CrypticRock.com – Speaking of albums. Your solo album, 1972’s Cosmo, was recently re-released on June 22nd.
Doug Clifford – Yes, they re-released it around the 50th anniversary of Creedence Clearwater Revival. There weren’t any new Creedence Clearwater Revival tracks in the vault somewhere. My album was released 46 years ago, so it’s just new to a majority of the people. Tom Fogerty has a release, Excalibur (1972), his second solo album, and they re-released that too. They are doing that to help celebrate the 50th anniversary with two former members of Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I put my album out the same year we broke up. It’s all part of that process if you will. I am excited about it, I never thought I would see the light of day with that record. (Laughs) It has Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass, The Tower of Power horn section, The Doobie Brothers’ John McFee on lead guitar, Stu Cook on rhythm guitar, and Gospel Singer Walter Hawkins. It’s a pretty cool record, I’m proud of it, and just feel very lucky they remembered it. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That is fantastic. This is something that was out of print for a while. Were you surprised to see a re-release after all this time?
Doug Clifford – I was going through my vaults. As I said, I did a lot of songwriting with a lot of different writers over the years in my semi-retired days. That made me think about the album – I had eight songs I did on the album with three covers. I thought, “Gosh, they probably have forgotten about that record. I wonder if I can get it back from them?” I called them and told them I was interested in getting it back. They said, “That’s funny, two weeks ago we decided to re-release it.” I said, “Thanks for telling me!” (Laughs) What, were they just going to wait, put it out, and not tell me? Anyway, I’m thrilled about it!
CrypticRock.com – It’s exciting to see it remembered and re-released. Since you have remained so active performing and writing, has there been any talk of you and Stu getting together to write some new music?
Doug Clifford – Not really. We’re cutting down our live shows, and I knew this would happen. I’m the grandfather, I have five kids, and I’ve been a granddad for some time now. Stu is just starting, he has a couple of grandkids now. I said, “When you become a grandpa, you are going to want to cut the schedule back.” He said, “Oh no I won’t.” Well, it’s happening. (Laughs) We have gone from 75 shows a year to 45.
CrypticRock.com – That is understandable. You want to be with your family, it all starts when you become a parent. Then, if you are lucky, you become a grandparent. Everything changes in life.
Doug Clifford – Exactly. Grandkids are the best, you just spoil them and hand them back. That’s my job as far as being a grandparent – spoil the heck out of them, give them back. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That is what grandparents do. (Laughs) With Cosmo re-released and Creedence Clearwater Revisited releasing a live record in 2016, are there any talks of anymore releases?
Doug Clifford – We have pretty much covered the bases. As I said, at this point in time, we are really enjoying the group of guys we have and the live shows. By playing less of them, you look forward to it a little bit more. The candy bowl, if you will, isn’t as full as it was when we were doing 75 shows. (Laughs) You appreciate each show a little bit more.
CrypticRock.com – Sometimes more is less, so that is not a negative thing at all. You have some great shows coming up, including a stop at the Paramount on Long Island in New York.
Doug Clifford – I am looking forward to that one! New York is New York. I love New York and there’s no place like it on Earth. I am looking forward to a fun crowd and a lot of Rock-n-Roll.
CrypticRock.com – It should be a great time with some great tunes. Last question. CrypticRock also covers Horror and Sci-Fi films. If you are a fan of either genre, what are some of your favorites and why?
Doug Clifford – I’m not a real movie buff in any category, I don’t watch many movies to tell you the truth. An American Werewolf in London (1981), I like that one because they have “Bad Moon Rising” in it. (Laughs) It comes at a perfect time in the film. I would have to say that one.
CrypticRock.com – That is right! They place the song perfectly in that particular scene as well.
Doug Clifford – Yes. At the time, that film was way ahead of its time from a technological standpoint, it really looked like it was real. I enjoyed that film.