Santa Maria Sun / Music
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 17
Playin' in a travelin' bandThe Santa Barbara County Fair will include a performance by Creedence Clearwater Revisited, including original members and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musicians Stu Cook and Doug 'Cosmo' Clifford
BY JOE PAYNE
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame legends Stu Cook and Doug “Cosmo” Clifford made up half of Creedence Clearwater Revival with the Fogerty brothers, completing one of America’s favorite bands of the 1960s and early ’70s. Now, decades later, Cook and Clifford serve as a solid musical foundation for Creedence Clearwater Revisited, which will be performing at the Santa Barbara County Fair on July 13.
The Sun had a chance to talk with Clifford about his years of experience playing drums for the famous band and the resurgence of popularity the music is enjoying among old and young listeners alike.
Sun: Creedence Clearwater Revisited tours not just nationally but internationally as well; what are some of the places you guys have been?
Clifford: Well, we’ve been to South America, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Central America, Asia, of course Canada—but that’s hardly a foreign country—Mexico, Europe, and we are playing Vietnam this year. So, we get around.
Sun: When you aren’t performing, what do you like to do?
Clifford: Well, I don’t like to travel, that’s for sure. I’ve got four grandkids and they keep me pretty busy. I have kind of a secret agent man life, you know, rock ‘n’ roll band that goes around the world, doing that, and then come in and get with the grandkids and the family and things like that. Of course my wife, who is my wife of 45 years, when I get back to town she likes to go out a little more than I do, so I try to keep that in mind.
Sun: So, Creedence Clearwater Revival started in the Bay Area; where exactly was that?
Clifford: El Cerrito.
Sun: So how do a bunch of kids from El Cerrito start playing Delta blues and country rock?
Clifford: Well, I started buying records when I was 9, and the first record was a 78—they didn’t have 45s yet—and Etta James’ Roll With Me Henry was the first record I bought, and then the second one was Bo Diddley by Bo Diddley, and then on and on. I like the black R&B music a lot; it’s just what hit me as a very young kid, and I continued listening, and when Elvis hit the scene he was just so dynamic and magnificent. So rock ‘n’ roll was in my blood, and I wanted to play an instrument. I just didn’t know which one. When I was 12, I saw Gene Kruppa on television doing a drum thing, and I just said, ‘Wow, that’s what I want to do, but I don’t want to play jazz. I want to play rock ‘n’ roll.’
Sun: Well, Gene Kruppa was quite rock ‘n’ roll in his own right.
Clifford: Yeah. Well, you know, he brought the drummer out from the darkness. They used to put the drummer way in the back—they weren’t even lit, no lights on them. But he became a star and brought his style to the music and became a soloist and brought the drummers out into the forefront, and it changed the types of arrangements, and what was not acceptable turned out to be acceptable. Drummers actually turned out to be somebody who was actually alive!
Sun: So how did that translate into the rock ‘n’ roll? Something I’ve noticed, across the decades, is the rhythm has always been very important.
Clifford: Well, in rock ‘n’ roll the foundation is the drums. You start with the drums, and then you put the bass on there, then the rhythm guitar, then the leads, and the vocals on top. That’s the way it works. Rock ‘n’ roll is a beat music. Drums are the foundation. I listened to radio constantly. In the Bay Area, there were rather diverse radio opportunities because Richmond was a workingman’s, very blue-collar, predominantly black city. It’s where ships were built during the war effort, and so a lot of people came from the South, and when they came out they kind of liked California and stayed, and so they brought their music with them. And there were music stations in the Bay Area that we could listen to, and that’s where we were able to hear that style of music and hear it anytime of day. We also got to go see these kinds of artists: Jimmy Reed, Lightning Hopkins, people like that. We got to actually see them live performing, like John Lee Hooker, some of those guys. We were in a really good place to be exposed to those types of artists.
Sun: When did you connect with Stu Cook?
Clifford: First day of school in the 7th grade, home room-—Cook and Clifford, the letter C. That was the first day I met him, 50 years ago.
Sun: Did you two start learning instruments together?
Clifford: Yes, we did. That’s exactly what happened. He was taking classical piano lessons, and he just hated it—it was classical. I met John Fogerty in the 8th grade in the music room there, and he was playing Fats Domino and Little Richard piano in the music room, which was forbidden, but Mrs. Stark wasn’t there at the time. But I had all those records and knew every piano part, and so I listened for a while, came up and said, ‘Hey, that’s Fats and Little Richard. Not for not, do you want to start a band?’ He says, ‘Well, yeah, but what do you play?’ I told him I wanted to play drums; I had started to buy a piece here and a piece there, and I wasn’t shy about those type of things. He said, ‘Actually, I play guitar and I am looking for a piano player.’ I said, ‘I know the guy; his name is Stu Cook, his dad is a rich lawyer who has a rumpus room with a piano that’s in tune, and we could practice there.’ I hadn’t asked Stu if he wanted to be in the band, I hadn’t asked his parents if they would let us play on their fabulous piano, but that’s how it started. We were an instrumental trio called The Blue Velvets. Tom [Fogerty] came in and had us record behind him a few years later.
Sun: Something I always notice in bands is the relationship between the drummer and the bassist is very important.
Clifford: Well, that’s part of that foundation I was alluding to. I am connected with my foot to Stu, and I am connected with my right hand to the rhythm and/or lead player. John was a rhythm lead player, we were a rhythm band, that’s why it worked. We kept the idea simple, and that’s what gave it the groove. I was concentrating on being connected to both, one on the top end of the scale and one on the lower end of the scale.
Sun: So, you guys are a five-piece now, right?
Clifford: Yes, what we’ve done is we’ve added a multi instrumentalist to play all the overdub parts—the little percussion parts in the records, harmonica, acoustic rhythm parts, and the keyboard parts—things we could never do as a quartet, and it just kind of rounds it off and gives it the sound of the finished recordings.
Sun: Who is your singer and who is your lead guitar player?
Clifford: Well, our singer is John Tristao, who was in a band called People—he was the lead singer. He’s also a great musician; he plays rhythm guitar in our band. He’s a well-rounded guy. He’s a trained singer, so he can come out and deliver night after night. He can sing all the songs in the original keys, which John Fogerty can’t do these days. This guy is great, and he just seams to get better, like a fine wine. He’s very disciplined about not partying too much and getting his rest. And he’s a great showman, he’s funny, he’s the complete package. Kurt Griffey is our guitarist now. He’s been an L.A. session guy for years, played with everybody down there. He’s really a great musician and a great person. He’s very quiet; he doesn’t want to think he’s a rock star.
Sun: You guys started up Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995, right?
Clifford: We are in our 19th year of touring.
Sun: So after 50 years, what is it like playing those songs from back then? Do you get flashbacks when you are up there on stage?
Clifford: Sometimes you do, sometimes you don’t. Usually anything like that would be generated by the audience, not really what we are doing on stage. What we are doing is pretty much like riding a bicycle. You get that kind of feedback from the audience, and that’s what live music is all about. That’s what keeps it fun and exciting and fresh—you never know what is going to happen. We have three generations of fans now, which is, I think, our greatest accomplishment in a pop medium. It’s that test of time. We have more young fans now than we do older fans; that’s another interesting statistic to me. I see a new generation emerging, single digits, like 9 year olds and 7 years olds, and that’s pretty cool.
Sun: Is there anything else you can think to add?
Clifford: Yeah, I would just say this to your readers: If you’d like to share and love this band, come and party with us and have a good time, that’s what we like to do. We take the music seriously, but we don’t take ourselves so seriously, and that’s a real good combination for fun.
Contact Arts Editor Joe Payne at firstname.lastname@example.org.