by Lauren Rosier
Not many musicians can say that they were part of one of the most iconic eras in music such as the late 1960’s through early 1970’s and also active in today’s music industry. For former Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer, Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, he can say that he experienced firsthand success during one of the greatest musical eras of American music history.
The history of Creedence Clearwater Revival is well-known to dedicated fans; however, it’s always different for any public figure that’s constantly under a microscope. Creedence emerged in the middle of a bustling psychedelic trend as a band that played American roots music. For artists like Creedence Clearwater Revival that weren’t playing psychedelic music, Clifford and former members Stu Cook, John Fogerty, and Tom Fogerty, weren’t guaranteed success. Often times, others would mention that they didn’t think the band would make it during the iconic psychedelic era of music and counterculture of the 1960’s and 1970’s.
“We started with the Creed when we were 13 years of age,” Clifford began. “It took us ten years before we had our first hit, so we stuck with it, and we also stuck with the genre we had chosen. It was our destiny really. We wanted to play roots American music.”
“It was a logistical nightmare for artists. All the roads were blocked, getting in and out, and getting your equipment in and out was a major, major ordeal,” Clifford noted. “Hats off to our crew, I don’t know how they did it. We went in on a little two-man helicopter with three people in. You could tell what was happening, it was basically overrun. 50,000-75,000 people didn’t have the basic necessities for human existence and comfort. But it didn’t matter; people were just enjoying their time. It was muddy and wet, but it didn’t matter. That part was really cool.”
The Inevitable Split
Through the latter part of the band’s career, the endless touring schedules and extensive recording sessions took their toll on the band, eventually leading to the group’s split in 1972.
“It was a pressure cooker. We put out three albums in 1969, talk about pressure,” Clifford admitted. “In less than four years, we put out seven studio albums and two live albums. John’s theory was that ‘if we’re ever off the charts, we’ll be forgotten.’”
He added that the band “was on a pretty speedy path” in which “things happen internally, especially when there’s brothers involved. The writing was on the wall and it wasn’t a surprise when it did.”
The Beginning of Creedence Clearwater Revisited
In 1995, original CCR bassist, Stu Cook, was residing in Los Angeles and Clifford in Lake Tahoe. Cook mentioned to Clifford that he’d made the decision to return to the San Francisco Bay Area. Clifford said to Cook “before you do that, come to the lake with me, bring your family” and they ended up jamming on drums and bass in Clifford’s studio.
“We knew we needed a project,” Clifford stated. What came next was the beginnings of Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a new lineup of solid musicians playing classic CCR songs with two of the original band members. “We said ‘what the heck, if we can find the right personnel to fill the slot, they have to know the legacy, be good players, and have the right attitude to be able to this.”
The State of the Music Industry: Then and Now
The differences between the state of the music industry now and then are great, according to Clifford. “Back then there was more of an artistic value in our sort of atmosphere,” He revealed. “Now it’s pretty much accountants, lawyers, and labels, and artists are struggling to find their identity with downloads and Spotify and iTunes and that sort of thing. It changes what the label does and how they’ve had to do business.”
“Hard products are disappearing,” Clifford began, “like CD’s and that sort of thing. Something that is real that you can hold in your hand. With a download, you’ve got the cloud, and it’s a different environment. You’ve got no packaging. The Internet has really changed. I think some of them [labels] are in limbo. Some of the biggest companies are catching on, but it’s a lot different. One thing that they do do is that they don’t pay the artist what they’re suppose to pay them.”
With the rise and advancement of technology, it has served people to be able to “put out music themselves with the hopes of gaining listeners to see them play live” and that, Clifford says, “has been tough for a lot of people in the business now. It’s all about the live show, they’re not selling records so much, as they are building audiences to come see them play.”
Clifford’s right; it’s easier for aspiring musicians to release music themselves; however, it’s a lot harder to bring people out to your show. “When we first started everything was vinyl. It gave info about music and the bands. Now you can go online and drop into iTunes, get a bunch of records, but you’re not going down to the record store, and buying records. It’s like malls – they’re dying.”
The Current Chapter of Creedence Clearwater Revisited
Despite starting the band in 1995, the lineup has changed a few times, now with current players Kurt Griffey (guitar), Steve Gunner (rhythm guitar/harmonica/keyboards/vocals), and Dan McGuinness (lead vocals/rhythm guitar).
“Kurt’s a great player. He understands what to do and when to do it,” Clifford explained. “Gunner’s been with us since day one, 23 years. He does all the instrumental parts, he’s a fantastic musician. McGuinness is terrific, all the girls think he’s good looking.”
Clifford says he tends to appreciate things more due to his experiences playing with Creedence Clearwater Revival then and now. “You just appreciate things more the older you get being able to play at this level at my age. It’s pretty cool,” He admitted. “Going out and knowing you’re making people happy, that’s a pretty cool job to make people happy. We have three generations of fans now, so we have a lot of young fans than older fans now. Older fans are remembering where they were or what they did when a certain song comes up. The new fans are creating new memories that they’ll carry with them for the rest of their lives.”
Join Doug “Cosmo” Clifford with the rest of the members of Creedence Clearwater Revisited when they visit Philadelphia’s SugarHouse Casino on Friday. Tickets are available now.