Something about the sounds of the ’60s and ’70s strikes a chord in the hearts of music lovers everywhere. It’s the type of love that spans generations. It’s hard to put a finger on any singular reason why this phenomona exists. Music fads come and go, but this special time in history was about more than just great music. It was a time of political and social turmoil. It was a time that, perhaps, needed music more then any other time in recent history. When I think about music from that period, I think about Woodstock, Vietnam, and a world struggling to fit together the pieces of a fractured WWII landscape. The music became a rallying point to bring minds together.
Two great players from this era convene in Omaha this week to bring fans together and remember a time when. Creedence Clearwater Revisited and The Guess Who.
I spoke with Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, drummer and founding member of Creedence Clearwater Revival and member of the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame. While we didn’t get into the points above and his thoughts on CCR’s role during that era, he did reveal the bands love for on the road pranks, memorable concerts, his early influences as a drummer and the origins of his out of this world nickname, Cosmo.
Reader: You’ve probably played more concerts then you can remember. Which one sticks out the most to you?
Clifford: Definitely Woodstock. It was legendary and rightfully so. 400,000+ people all coming together at the same time and place. What really stood out to me was, not just the great bands of the time but, people helping each other and loving their neighbors. Many people showed up there with only the clothes on their backs. Everyone shared what they had and helped others in any way they could.
Reader: If you could pick any place in the World to play, what would you choose?
Clifford: The Great Wall of China. It’s a truly unique Wonder of the World. I just think it would be amazing to play at a place with that much history. It would really be a great experience.
Reader: What is your favorite “on the road” story?
Clifford: (Laughing) It’s hard to come up with just one! We had lots of pranks that we pulled for darn sure. One that stands out to me in our early days, around ’68. We were in a crappy motel. I don’t remember the name of the town. I took my gun out and uncovered it. Then I covered myself in ketchup and went out into the hallway and laid there with the gun just waiting for whoever found me there first.
Reader: Who were some of the drummers that influenced you?
Clifford: Back then we pretty much only had the A.M. Radio. I was into the blues and really liked a lot of the early black drummers from that time. Guys like Al Jackson Jr. and a lot of the players from New Orleans. But, the one guy that really stood out to me was Gene Krupa. He just had that look and technique to go along with an award winning personality. He literally brought the drummer out of the darkness. Before him, drummers played way back behind the band, often in the dark. He was handsome in the same was as Elvis. Just a huge personality during the big band era.
Reader: How long do you see yourself continuing to tour and perform?
Clifford: I will continue to perform as long as my skills stay at a high level.
Reader: Here’s a long question. If you had to pick one CCR song each to, 1. perform forever. 2. one that really gets a concert rockin’ and 3. one that you would never play again, what would they be? Go!
Clifford: Oh man, there’s just to many exciting songs. Born on a Bayou. I would have to pick that one to play forever. Everyone loves that song. Fortunate Son a lot folks like. It really gets people off of their seats. But, one song to never play again. I’m not sure. Came out of the Sky. It’s a running joke in the band that I hate playing that song but, we always end up playing it, it seems like (laughing).
Reader: Where does your nickname, “Cosmo”, come from?
Clifford: Back in my college days [at San Jose State University] they called me Clifford “C” Clifford. I’m not sure where that came from. I was an amateur entomologist. I studies insects — mostly roaches and ants — and their habitats, and was into the environment and how things worked, and what man was doing to the environment. I lived in the animal house and there were some characters. We had some great parties. We were having a toga party and someone yelled out “Hey Clifford C. Clifford, what does the C stand for?” Before I could respond, the first hippie in the house yelled out “It stands for Cosmo. He’s cosmic and a man of nature.” And it stuck.
Reader: What is your favorite moment of your professional career?
Clifford: Our album “Cosmo Factory”. It was named after me at the peak of our career. Also, my favorite song is Born on the Bayou. It set a precedent for the power of rock arrangements.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited, with special guest The Guess Who, will take the stage on Friday, August 23 at the Ralston Arena. The show begins at 7:00 p.m. with doors at 6:00 p.m. Parking is free. Reserved admissions begin at $29.