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Interview: Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford
by Nathan Orme
Sep 23, 2009 | 4266 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune/Nathan Orme -
Doug Clifford is a Reno resident and drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
Tribune/Nathan Orme - Doug Clifford is a Reno resident and drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
slideshow
Doug Clifford during his days with Creedence Clearwater Revival with bandmates Stu Cook, Tom Fogerty and John Fogerty.
Doug Clifford during his days with Creedence Clearwater Revival with bandmates Stu Cook, Tom Fogerty and John Fogerty.
slideshow
In a day and age when many musicians enter and exit the limelight in the span of a few hit songs, it is common to go see a concert only wanting to hear those few familiar tunes.

Such is not the case with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, who will play at Reno’s Silver Legacy on Friday night.

“We play 20 songs and they’re all hits,” said Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revival and co-founder of Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

In saying this about the songs of former CCR front man John Fogerty, Clifford isn’t bragging about his old band’s fame or his place in it. It is the truth that many CCR songs are instantly recognizable with their simple but catchy patterns and, of course, Fogerty’s throaty vocal style that developed in his early days as he tried to sing over noisy bar crowds.

It was the music’s staying power — combined with the fact that no one, not even Fogerty, was playing CCR music on stage — that led Clifford and former CCR guitarist Stu Cook in 1995 to form Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Though they originally intended only to play private parties, the fan response was so overwhelming that Cook and Clifford found the project growing much larger than they anticipated. It grew so much, in fact, that when they released an album of a CCRevisited concert, “Recollection,” it went platinum in 2008.

CCRevisited has not only played Reno numerous times in its 15 years of existence, the Biggest Little City is also kind of like the group’s home field. CCR originated in the east San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and broke up in 1972, though it wasn’t until 1979 that Clifford had a “no room at the inn” experience in South Lake Tahoe that forced him to seek accommodations in Incline Village. He liked the smaller, woodsy, remote atmosphere so much that he bought a big chunk of land and built his 4,100-square-foot “cabin” with sweeping views of Lake Tahoe. Clifford quickly learned that life at the lake isn’t always sunny.

“I didn’t understand winters and it was a mild winter and I’m driving around in my Mercedes with street tires ... “ Clifford said while sipping on coffee during a warm September morning at Dreamer’s Coffee House in downtown Reno. “... But all of a sudden we had a real winter. ‘82-’83 was one of the biggest ever and it was a real lesson being up that high. So we ended up buying all the lots around us — that was four lots, so we’re the only lot — I combined the lines for more coverage so we could add on. I added a three-car garage and made the one-car garage a wood shed and added an art studio for my wife. That became home.”

Clifford and his wife of 41 years have been local residents ever since then, though he moved his regular residence down the mountain to the Montreaux area of Reno. His three children are now grown, and Clifford’s second grandchild was born just two months ago.

Clifford said he has always been into exercise, and at 64 years he is built like an athlete 40 years younger. Like a traveling pro athlete, Clifford’s homestand in Reno this weekend will be short. The group heads to the Sacramento area for a show on Saturday before swinging south to Florida and Georgia and back north to Canada. CCRevisited is even busier than CCR was back in the musicians’ younger days. The band was playing 100-plus shows a year.

“I was gone more than I was home,” Clifford said.

The group has cut back to around 75 a year so Clifford now has more time off with his wife. CCRevisited is playing fewer shows but they are longer — around 90 minutes — and although Clifford said he no longer plays with the uncontrolled power that once required him to put 50-pound weights on the base of his cymbals to keep from knocking them over, he still loves getting on stage.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still get an adrenaline rush,” Clifford said of performing. “When I don’t get that rush, I’ll be working on my golf game. Sayonara. I’ve never had trouble getting up for a show, no matter how big or now matter how small. The fact is I’m going out playing live music with our band and that’s exciting to me.”

Sharing in the excitement with Clifford and Cook of CCRevisited are lead singer John Tristao, a tenor whose scratchy voice is a bit reminiscent of Fogerty and who was lead singer of the band People in the late 1960s; Steve Gunner on keyboard, guitar, harmonica, percussion and vocals; and young Bay Area guitar prodigy Tal Morris.

Though CCR’s legacy will largely be attributable to Fogerty’s contributions to the American songbook, the band also recorded some memorable covers that were originally scattered throughout the group’s various albums. In May, Fantasy Records, which formed in San Francisco in 1949 but took off on the success of CCR, released an album containing all 12 CCR cover songs. Some of the covers are well-known for their CCR renditions (“I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Susie Q” and “I Put A Spell On You”) while others (“Hello Mary Lou” by Ricky Nelson, “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison, “Good Golly Miss Molly” by Little Richard and others) are fun surprises for fans who only know the group’s radio hits.

“I was surprised that idea didn’t come to fruition sooner,” Clifford said. “It’s our tribute — or was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s tribute — to a lot of the artists we listened to that helped us to develop our sound. We played them in the bars a lot. So, it was kind of a little tip of the hat. Of course, it’s money for them, the writers and the publishers so it’s kind of giving back, if you will.”

Clifford said CCRevisited has been throwing some of these covers and some of CCR’s lesser known songs (for example, “Feelin’ Blue” and “Don’t Look Now” by Fogerty off 1969’s “Willy and the Poor Boys” album) in their live show, though they stick primarily to the familiar CCR songs.

“If you break away and play something they don’t know, you lose your audience,” Clifford said.

CCRevisited has carried on the tradition of cool covers by recording the Chuck Berry Christmas classic “Run Rudolph Run” for an album benefiting the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation to be released in November. The album, called “Hope for the Holidays,” will feature recordings of “O Come All Ye Faithful” by Weezer and “Santa’s Goin’ To Kokomo” by The Beach Boys. Pre-ordering is available at www.voiceprint.co.uk/web/Release/VP527CD/.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited plays Friday at 8 p.m. in the Silver Legacy’s Grande Exposition Hall. Tickets are $65, $50 and $40 and can be purchased online at www.silverlegacyreno.com/entertainment/headliners/.
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