Music Interview: A Band That Travels

Creedence Clearwater Revisited Keeps On Rollin’

August March
8 min read
A Band That Travels
Credence Clearwater Revisted (Jeff Dow)
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More musical computations and declarations: If you’re between 16 and 96 you have probably heard of a band called Creedence Clearwater Revival. There is a 95 percent chance of that statement being true, according to my research. Further, 88 percent of that same group can name a song by Credence and 75 percent can sing at least part of the lyrics.

Even with some duplications and telephonic errors, the continued reach and wherewithal of a band that recorded most of its oeuvre nigh on 50 years ago is remarkable. You don’t have to have been born on the bayou. You don’t have to run through the jungle. You might have already heard this through the grapevine, but hey, I’m just looking out of my back door.

The back story behind one of the most successful band brands in American history is just as colorful and convoluted as the language and prophetic utterances made above. For one thing, Creedence Clearwater Revival has been broken up for more than 40 years.

John Fogerty the frontman and main songwriter for that project, doesn’t play with the two other founding members of the outfit. Their names are Doug Clifford and Stu Cook. The fourth member of the storied swamp rock quartet, Tom Fogerty, died years and years ago.

John Fogerty had a big deal solo career after CCR folded. When he tours he unpacks some of their tuneage but is also buoyed by late career hits like “Center Field” and “The Old Man Down the Road.”

But the two other surviving and founding members of the Southern rock stalwarts continue to promote the music and the mythology of the original CCR. As Creedence Clearwater Revisited, Clifford, Cook and a coterie of competent sidemen—including singer Dan McGuinness, multi-instrumentalist Steve Gunner and guitarist Kurt Griffey (Cars guitarist Elliot Easton handled the axes from 1995 until 2004, yo)—have been touring since 1995.

So, as it happens—as it was meant to happen, Bokononist fans of CCR might say—
Creedence Clearwater Revisited has a gig at Route 66 Casino’s Legends Theater on Friday, Aug. 17. Of course this coming situation sparked the curiosity of Alibi music critic August March, who called around and around on the telephone until CCR’s founding drummer, rocanrol hall of famer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford dialed back. Here is some of the conversation that followed.

Weekly Alibi: Good morning, is this Doug Clifford?

Doug Clifford: It might be …

Let me rephrase that. Is this Cosmo, the world famous drummer for heavy duty swamp rockers CCR and Creedence Clearwater Revisited, one of the greatest, most notoriously slinky stick handlers of the rocanrol era?

I don’t know about that last part, but yeah you got Cosmo on the phone!

Doug it’s an honor. I love your music just like everyone else in the known universe. Tell our readers about the tour you’re taking right now, if you please.

It’s a lot like last year, we’re having a really good time at the places we play. It’s the summer season and that’s traditionally when we get on the bus, leave the airports behind and play for America. Right now I’m in the wine country, in Napa to play the county fair here tonight. Then the tour really starts, we’re in LA after this. The beauty of touring in the summer is that you have concerts seven days a week. We’ve been doing a lot of shows. The amount of music that happens in the summertime is terrific. It’ great knowing that we can rock that pretty good, that we are part of that.

I’m rocking 54 and after attending two or three shows a week, I’m dead. You’re like 20 years older and you’re playing out every night. How do you manage that?

It’s a way of life. I get on the drums and I come alive; I get an adrenaline rush. Playing rock and roll keeps me going. I play for free and I get paid to travel. This is the 50th anniversary of Credence Clearwater Revival and I’ve been playing since I was a teenager. I occasionally ask Scotty to beam me up; there’s probably a pretty nice check waiting for me up there but they never answer my calls.

You could tune in almost any FM radio station across the US right now and stumble onto one of your, one of CCR’s big hits. How does that feel?

Well, thank god for the radio! If it hadn’t been for the love affair that radio has had with Creedence, then we might never have gotten there. We were originally signed to a small label that specialized in jazz, Fantasy Records. They didn’t have a commercial music department, they had never promoted rock and roll music before. It was radio that picked up on our sound; radio continues to be our partner in crime to this day. I still get a kick out of hearing us play. I’ll be in the grocery store—picking up some of my favorite ice cream or wandering through the produce aisle—and one of our tunes will come on. I start tripping and stop for a second and shout, “That’s terrific!” I know a lot of guys had successful bands, but their stuff never gets played on the radio. I enjoy the moment; this is a sound that a group of 13-year-olds started, and it’s still alive. I get a kick outta that.

Why is the music of Creedence timeless?

I think it’s the fact that when we started we were very young; we were just learning to playing our instruments together and Tom [Fogerty] got us into a studio and we began recording regularly when I was 13. So we had time to develop a unique sound, the sound of Creedence. The feel of those songs comes from the rhythm section, that’s my neck of the woods. The foundation of rock and roll has always been the drums. We made a great recording unit. That’s why we had so many hits in less than four years.

The sound indeed was and is singular. How did other musicians react to it back in the day, in the ’60s?

The focus was on the type of music we were playing. Though we came out of the San Francisco Bay area, we didn’t sound like other bands from there. In the midst of psychedelia, our peers laughed at us, called us the Boy Scouts of rock and roll. They said we’d never make it playing that kind of music. We said that we’re not just going to play a style because it’s popular, we are committed to what we are doing. We thought, “If it doesn’t happen for us, it doesn’t happen.” Fortunately, last laughs are always the best laughs.

Where did you get the sound and style of drumming that’s integral to the band’s sound?

I’m self-taught. I listened to the radio. Back in the day, radio played a rather broad spectrum of what was popular at the time. Now, radio is defined by its narrowness. That’s just the way things played out from a marketing perspective, I suppose. If you were listening back then, you were listening to all sorts of hit records. There was something to each that made it a hit. Of course my focus was on what the drummer was doing. If the drum parts were really, really difficult or not fun, I would simplify them and add myself in. The songs of CCR are simple, they’re not difficult from a compositional standpoint. But they make you get up and move your feet. That’s my job.

What was some of your favorite music, growing up?

Most of the stuff I was buying was black music. Little Richard, Fats Domino, James Brown. And I loved stuff with horn sections. On the other side of that, the Sun Records stuff was impressive. And actually, I’ve got an album out now, Cosmo, that features the Tower of Power Horn Section, so that really reflects where I came from.

That’s the album that came out right after Creedence Clearwater Revival split up, right?

Yeah, it was re-released for our 50th anniversary. I’m really excited about that.

Are you playing any of those songs on this tour?

Nah, taking a horn section along is hella expensive. People wanna hear the hits of Creedence Clearwater Revival. People still go crazy to hear that music. We have more young fans than older fans now, I think. Four generations of listeners! That’s pretty cool. It’s humbling and remarkable. We’ll have to ride that train as long as there is fuel in the tank.

Credence Clearwater Revisited

Friday, Aug. 17, 8pm

Route 66 Casino’s Legends Theater

14500 Central Ave. SW

$35 to $77 • All-ages

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