Cosmo's Factory Revisited
Doug Clifford on 50 Years of Creedence Clearwater

By Lee Valentine Smith

One of several classic rock bands celebrating a golden anniversary this year is Creedence Clearwater Revival. One of the most acrimonious bands of the rock era, the group of childhood friends officially disbanded in the fall of '72, leaving a legacy of hit records and some incredible live performances.

In 1995, drummer Doug "Cosmo" Clifford and bassist Stu Cook revived the group to relive the hits originally written by lead singer and guitarist John Fogerty. Now together for several times longer than their original run, Creedence Clearwater Revisited continues to tour the country with a live show that spans their entire catalog. They arrive in the area on the 48th anniversary of their classic album Cosmo's Factory. INsite spoke with Clifford from his home studio in Nevada.

You and Stu have Revisited the music much longer than the original band existed. How does it feel to still do it after all these years? It must be a great vindication that you've thrived with the music that had such a tumultuous history.

We had the idea back in 1995, because people were saying they'd never had a chance to hear this music played live. Since John Fogerty wasn't playing the songs, we said, 'Why don't we give the public what they want?' We had a five-year plan and now here we are, 23 years later still going strong.

You started out as "Cosmo's Factory," as a nod to the album, and then it morphed into Creedence Clearwater Revisited.

We couldn't use the Creedence name. John is a grudge-carrier. You'd think as time goes on, he'd mellow out a bit but pretty much it's gotten worse. We just settled another [lawsuit]. But since this is the 50th anniversary of Creedence Clearwater Revival, I just look back and I realize that it's all about three kids who had a dream. Me, John and Stu. We backed John's older brother Tom Fogerty and we stayed together ten years and honed our craft. Then we had a hit ["Susie Q"] and the rest you know about. So for the hopefuls, just know it can happen.

CCR sounds timeless, which is so different than many of the other San Francisco bands of the era. With many of them, you can tell what year - and maybe even what month - they recorded those records.

It's funny, our peers called us the 'boy scouts of rock and roll,' and said we'd never make it playing that kind of music. But we were like, 'This is what we do and if we don't make it, we don't make it.'

That was an era where political songs reigned supreme and social commentary was running rampant.

Yeah but even as 'boy scouts,' we were a voice against the Vietnam War and a lot of other social issues of the time. Because we could get to the masses, unlike so many of the others who were putting the people down they were trying to get to. Like "Fortunate Son," that was a huge hit and got to people who wouldn't actually go and try to make a change, by using AM radio as a platform to protest.

While we have a minute we should talk about that obscure little music festival called Woodstock.

[Laughs] Well it's little known that we were there!

Obviously because you weren't in the film.

We still fight over that one. It was a big mistake not being in it, but that was John's call. He said, 'we don't need it, we're already number one.' Historically, it was the greatest concert ever, for so many reasons. And it'll never be repeated.

A one-in-a-lifetime event. And then they did Woodstock '94 but it just wasn't the same.

Yeah, they had an abundance of food, any and everything they could want for, comfort and sustenance-wise and they rioted and burned the stage down. But [the original] Woodstock was horrible conditions. Cold, wet, no water or food, except food from the ones who came to the festival. They shared it with complete strangers. And there was no violence.

But getting there was a problem.

Logistically, that was a nightmare. We were coming from L.A. We'd filmed a special with Andy Williams. We got in late and everyone was having a good time despite the conditions. My partner Stu Cook said it best: 'Woodstock wasn't about the bands, it was about the audience.' So true.

Talk about culture shock, coming from The Andy Williams Show to Woodstock.

It was cool because Ray Charles was there and then the Osmond Brothers were on the show. So you can imagine…

But let's talk about the actual performance. You had to follow the Grateful Dead in the middle of the night.

They'd played way over their allotted time and things were late anyway because of technical problems. But they did a 45-minute version of "Turn On Your Lovelight." I was pulling my hair out! When we finally got out there, between one and three in the morning, we were really tired. We'd taken the red-eye in from L.A. and just waiting drives you crazy. Then having to listen to that!

Looking back, what do you think of the actual performance?

It wasn't our best but it wasn't our worst. It kinda reflected what was going on. There was chaos, there was this, that and the other thing. But once we got up and running, we were going. You can see it on You Tube, but we should have been in the movie, to be with our peers and something so great. At that time, we were number one in record sales and the number one concert draw. So it's like a great bottle of wine, it's gotten better as the decades roll by.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited plays August 3 at Frederick Brown, Jr. Amphitheater. For more information, please visit ampitheater.org.

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