An interview with Creedence Clearwater Revisited

Doug Clifford, top left, Kurt Griffe, Dan McGuinness and Stu Cook rock on.

After performing thousands of concerts, delivering CCR hits live to millions of fans, Creedence Clearwater Revival rhythm section and co-founders, Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, have announced they are taking their hard-charging touring band Creedence Clearwater Revisited off the road after the band’s 25th anniversary.

Yucaipa is one of the stops on the 25th-anniversary tour. The band will perform Oct. 4 at the Yucaipa Performing Arts Center.

Cook and Clifford have nearly done it all during their careers in the music business. From the time they met on the first day of homeroom in the seventh grade some 60 years ago and formed their first band, to the meteoric launch of Creedence Clearwater Revival 51 years ago and headlining Woodstock 50 years ago, to their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, to their conception of their Creedence Clearwater Revisited project, and onto what will be 25 years of nonstop worldwide touring, Doug and Stu’s unique friendship and partnership in rock and roll has endured. 

The following is the text of a phone interview with drummer Clifford that took place on Sept. 18. Clifford is an American drummer for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a first time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee and one of the founding members of Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Now that your final tour is winding down, what sort of plans do you have for the future?

“Well, I have a publishing company, and I have written many songs over the years with a couple of co-writers, and I have an album that will be out next year. Then I am going to be working with the publishing company and writing some new material.”

How did you get involved in the music business in the beginning?

“When rock and roll came along, and I started collecting records, the first record I bought when I was 9 was “Roll With Me Henry” by Etta James, and the second was “Bo Diddley” by Bo Diddley. I was in there at the birth of rock and roll, loving the music, but not knowing what instrument to play. And ultimately I saw Gene Krupa, the great Jazz drummer and pit band drummer, and I said that’s what I want to do, but I want to play rock and roll.

“I started the band in eighth grade with John (Fogerty} and Stu, and I saw John playing piano, some of the stuff from my record collection, so I asked ‘John do you want to start a band?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, but I play guitar, and I’m looking for a piano player.’ I said, ‘Well, I know a guy named Stu Cook, who plays, and he has a room where we could practice and a nice piano. I didn’t ask Stu if he wanted to join or his parents if we could come in and use their piano, but that’s how it started, then Tom came in later during the recording process, and 10 years later, we had our first hit.’”

The music industry has changed in the last 50 years. How do you feel about the evolution of music from vinyl into the digital world of 2019?

“Well, the way it has evolved has screwed the artist. For example, getting a million hits on a record is like a couple of hundred dollars. You know I’ve never understood why people think they should get their music for free. Would they go to work and put in hundreds of hours creating their art, and then give it away? If you were a mechanic would you work eight hours a day, six days a week in a garage working on cars, and then at the end of the week say you don’t have to pay me. And then people wonder why we get these tunes that might not be as interesting etc. etc. because people are actually choosing a career where they can get paid. The way we used to do it, back in the old days was to starve, and then play six days a week, five sets a night.”

Before you started making all these hits, who inspired you to make the music you create?

“Well, there’s so many. When I started buying records in 1953, it was at the birth of rock and roll. So we caught it in its fledgling days. I loved that all the good black artists had horns, Little Richard, Fats Domino, James Brown; you name it, they all had horn sections, and I loved that a lot, so all of those were influences. Booker T. & the M.G.’s were the house band for Stax Records, and they didn’t just put out a single called ‘Green Onions’ and have success with it, they backed up Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and all the great acts out of Stax Records. That was Booker T. & the M.G.’s playing on those records. Steve Cropper, the guitar player, wrote for Ottis Redding and Sam and Dave, so they were the heart and soul of Stax Records, and most people don’t know about them doing that and how good they really were.”

After all these years of playing numerous hits, what song do you feel the most connected to?

“Born on the Bayou, from our second album ‘Bayou Country.’ That was really close to the time that we were playing in the clubs, so we had that raw edge and hunger. The song really tells people what we do, we play simple music, simple American roots music. That’s what we cut our teeth on. That’s the kind of record we would buy back then, and I guess even nowadays, but that is without a doubt my favorite. But they are all great. There were 25 years when we weren’t playing them, but the D.J.’s never stopped playing our songs, so I guess they never got tired of it. When you take it to the top of the mountain, you’re proud of it, and you never get tired of playing it, at least I don’t.

As we get closer to ending the journey, I’m a little bit more reflective on things, and it’s going to be bittersweet, but my body tells me I’m ready. I will miss the band certainly, and the time we had playing those songs for the fans because they are so gracious and have been so supportive of our projects throughout the years and the music in general.”

Headlining at Woodstock, and knowing what an iconic moment in music history that was, what makes that different from the Coachella and Bonnaroo festivals of today?

“Well, the original Woodstock was a movement that was set out for peace and music.

“I think that if there were a lot of alcohol there, it probably wouldn’t have happened. People were in the worst of conditions. Too many people were there, not enough toilets, not enough food, no shelter; people were soaking wet and cold. It was just the worst possible conditions. It was the perfect set conditions for violence, and there was none of it. People were helping each other; strangers would share whatever they had. It was truly a love fest amongst half a million people.

“You could feel the energy inside, once we got inside. It was a bit of a nightmare for us to get in, and trying to figure out when we would go on, and that was the business side of it. But the other part of it was that you could just sit back and see how beautiful human beings were to each other. If we had that type of behavior all the time. We wouldn’t need armies or any of that; there would be a real world of peace amongst human beings. A classic example is that on the 25th anniversary, they had all the food – everything they needed was there, and people didn’t like the prices, so they rioted and burned the stage, and they had to stop the show. So that’s the difference. Woodstock was a real authentic movement. Unfortunately, it was the end of a movement, Altamont killed it.

There are a lot of children out there, who are picking up that first guitar, or first pair of drumsticks who dream of being a rock star. Knowing what you know now, is there any advice you would give them?

“Be true to yourself. Play what you love, and don’t get into fads because they keep rolling over, and don’t ever find permanent traction if you will. Just be true to yourself and play whatever inspires you, and what gives you passion when you play it.”

Creedence Clearwater Revisited plays, Friday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m. at the YPAC Outdoor Stage, 12062 California St. Yucaipa, CA 92399 for tickets or more information, call 500-7714 or visit yucaipaperformingarts.org.

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