Transcript: Transcript Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bittersweet Journey: Tensions, Triumphs & Timeless Tunes

Hello, and thanks so much for hanging out with me today. I love having your company, and it makes me so happy to get messages from you telling me you’re enjoying the show. Before we get into it, just a shout out to all of you who’ve requested artists that you’d like to hear interviewed. I have them all in hand and promise to roll out as many as I can in the coming weeks and months.

00:00:23 Now onto our very spare guest this week, I’m pretty confident that if you’re listening to A Breath of Fresh Air, you probably know and love Credence Clearwater Revival. I’m sure many of you lived and breathed them back in the day, just like I did. Remember this sensational album cosmos Factory. Well, CCR comprised singer, songwriter and guitarist John Fogerty, his brother Tom Fogearty, bassist Ju Cook, and drummer Doug Cosmo Clifford, after whom that album was named. In just three years, the guys had 14 Top ten hits, and they performed at Woodstock ahead of their Acrimonious breakup in 1972.

00:01:05 I’m super excited to have Doug Cosmo Clifford with me today.

00:01:13 What a treat to meet you. How are you doing? I’m doing well. There is so much to talk to you about. I’ll call you Cosmo because that’s what you like to be called.

00:01:22 Everyone calls you Cosmo, right? All my friends do, that’s for sure. Well, I’m going to call you Cosmo, too, then. You’ve got a new album out there’s a documentary on Netflix, and of course, there’s a book out about Creedence’s Clearwater Revival. Well, you probably were busier in your day, but you’re pretty busy these days too, right?

00:01:42 I’m pretty busy. I’ve got my own record label now, and I’ve got distributorship from Sony, so I’ve got all the tools that I need for that side of the coin. The label won’t be bossing me around, that’s for sure. And in my 60 years of being under contract as a musician, it’ll be the first time in 60 years that I won’t have to audit my record company. Wow.


I’m not going to sue myself quite yet. Let’s start with the new record. It’s called California gold. You actually recorded it back in 1978, and you recorded it at the time with Bobby Whitlock, who we all know well from Derek and the Dominoes, right? Right.

00:02:29 That’s correct. what are you doing? what happened to the record that we never saw it at that time? Well, I have a little vault. In fact, it’s called Cosmos vault. And I have a lot of great musical projects that didn’t come to fruition back when. So better late than ever.

00:03:55 They sound as good as they did 40, 50 years ago. So I’m taking this project now with Bobby singing. I think he’s the best he’s ever sung. I made him stop smoking cigarettes with me, and then I got him on a running program. Because I’m an athlete, I’m always getting in shape and running around.

00:04:23 So his instrument is throw it, and wind is critical. And I knew if he could do more, anybody could. If they got rid of the cigarettes, and they did. And they actually started liking to run. Really?

00:04:40 So are you talking about recently this has happened, or back in 1978, when you reconfigured Bobby Whitlock? Yeah, many moons ago. Right. So you set him on the straight and narrow. Yeah, and he was glad I did.

00:04:57 I bet he was. I guess he could owe you the fact that he’s around and healthy today and he’s still doing some fabulous things.

00:05:45  When this record first came out, where were you at when you pulled Bobby Whitlock and Donald Dunn into it? Well, it was back in 1978. Credence had broken up on 72, and I had a few little recording projects and things of that nature, and I finally decided I wanted to put a band together and get back into a full time musical project. And so I was at Donald Duck Dunn’s house and I told him that I wanted to start a band. And did he know any singers of merit that might want to work with me?

00:06:52 He says, yeah, bobby Whitlock. And I said, that rings a bell. He says, Derek and the Dominoes Leila, all that, of course. So, anyway, I said, yeah, why don’t you get a hold of him and see if he would mind or like to put a project together where we would be the primary writers, get back into playing some gigs and recording and the whole thing. And so he said, I’ll do that.

00:07:53 And next thing I know, I got a pad and a pencil out, and we’re writing songs just like that. And it felt good. And I like to co write, but if I co write, I co write with one other person, only I won’t go three or up because it becomes too many cooks and people start thinking about their percentage instead of thinking about creating music. We got that out of the way. There was just the two of us.

00:08:24 So we actually started writing songs right there in my living room. And it was very easy, comfortable. Nobody was worried about producing more or less than the other guy. The mission was completed that way and I would say it was a definite 50 50. I was more on the lyrics side, he was more on the music side

00:09:13 This might be a long time. And then it’s gone. When I was done peeing, I went back to bed and it was gone in the morning. Not not the pee, of course. No.

00:09:24 I’m glad to hear you have to do that too. We all do that, don’t we’re?

00:09:37 Going solo. Have something back into your soul after a love of father get around on the left of the rock and roll take you off take it won’t bring you down when I say you can’t stop david gonna be around we’re gonna turn it around turn it around turn it around it’s a ten track collection and each song seems better than the next. Really? It’s kind of a combination of Delaney and Bonnie, which Bobby Whitlock had been with in the past. It does sound like Credence as well, doesn’t it?

00:10:51 It’s a nice mixture of the two, I think. And having Doug on bass, he’s on half the songs because he had to leave the project in the middle of it because John Belushi asked him to be one of the Blues Brothers. Duck said, I got to go. This is my dream come true. And we said, and we all wish you well.

00:11:12 Good for you. And we were very happy for him and he did great. A little leprechaun. I loved working with Duck and looked forward to being in a band with him. And then Bobby’s wife didn’t like the Bay Area so much, and next thing you know, we said, well, someday maybe we’ll get it together, but right now is not the time.

00:11:38 Donald Duck Dunn, for anybody who doesn’t know, had been the bass player with Booker T and the MGS for a long while, hadn’t he? Yes. And I’ll bet you not everybody Britain realizes that Booker T and the MGS was the house band for Stacks Records. So when you hear Otis Redding’s record the band behind Otis Redding is Booker T and the MG’s

00:13:30 On and on and on and on. The list goes on. But Booker T. And the Mg, they were stacks records. You got huge pedigree between the three of you, and I guess it’s no wonder that this album sounds so fantastic.

00:13:44 Do you have a track on it that’s closest to your heart? Oh, gosh. The good news is there’s a difference between them and that’s a good thing. You’re not repetitive with your writing or your execution of the material. So I would have to say I really like Darkest for the dawn.

00:14:08 That I think is the best overall in terms of writing. But I’m not saying it’s necessarily a single, but I think it was the best, especially now with what’s going on in the world. It’s a scary kind of a scary good luck song.

00:18:22 And you were all school friends, apart from Tom, who was a few years 00:15:46 Does it surprise you that these songs that you wrote more than 50 years ago are still so appropriate today? You know, not anymore. It used to blow my mind. But then when you think about it, art imitates life and life imitates art. So life is cyclical.

00:16:05 And we’re in that area of the circle where it’s pretty rough out there. Yeah. And everything old is new again, which we can see with the music. It’s very hip to be producing 70s type sounds now, isn’t it? Well, I sure 70s were real good to me.

00:16:27 Music, for me, has always been medicine.

00:18:04 Thanks for being here. I’m chatting with Credence Clearwater Revivals drummer Doug Cosmo. Clifford CCR’s history is pretty bittersweet, even tragic in some ways. But as you’ll hear, it’s also a story of triumph. She’d been playing together since, what, about 1958? Right. Well, who knows what the tide will bring we were on quite a treadmill. We were always recording, bridging the gap between albums with singles in the middle. Nobody did that back then.

00:18:42 They said, you’re wasting a single, it should be there to sell the album. Well, the way it worked, we had these singles in the middle and then albums that were singles was loaded, so the ones in the middle did very well with the ones that were surrounding them. So we were always recording, always rehearsing and always touring.

00:19:07 I wonder how many people realized that you’d been playing as a band for probably around ten years before you broke through and had that first massive hit. It was exactly ten years, and at that time, Tom was a singer. It was Tom who brought us into the studio. He had a band and they were prototypical musicians.

00:20:33 Tom had a vision of recording a couple of songs, going to La, Hollywood, whatever, where the record companies were, and take the demo in and try and get a record deal for him and his band. Well, his band said, Are we getting paid? He said, no, it’s costing me a fortune and my time. And I said, Are there going to be any chicks there? No, it’s going to be a recording session.

00:21:01 And they said, we’d rather work on our cars. Oh, my goodness. Come the Blue Velvets Instrumental Trio, john Jew and myself, he came to us and asked if we’d back him up, and we said, make a record? And he said yes. We said, yeah, of course we want to go.

00:21:20 Are you kidding me? And that’s how it all started. Tom was the guy that made it possible with being able to finance a project. And also we were able to start recording early with the mindset that the way you make it is in this business to have a single on the radio. And so our dream was to have our songs played on the radio.

00:21:46 Well, they’ve been playing them for 54 years. Mission accomplished. Absolutely. Which was the first that got played. And what was your reaction when you heard it on the radio?

00:21:56 Well, we were a band called The Gollywogs for a while. We didn’t give ourselves that stupid name, the owner of this record company did, but that’s another story. We had a song called Brown Eyed Girl. And it wasn’t Van Morrison’s Brown Eye Girl. It was ours.

00:22:15 And it got to number one in regions in the Bay Area where we lived down south. San Jose was number one up in Sacramento. North of that, it was number one. It was number one in a couple of other markets and enough to get us some money. And what we did with the money was we didn’t buy a car or work on our cars.

00:22:40 We bought instruments. So we were able to get new instruments by virtue of having a record being played on the radio.

00:22:54 Let me tell you people about something I found I’ll be a brand new female because the eyes are ground don’t get yourself a blue eyes guilt, you just won’t do green eyes be the same thing they see the devil view being played on the radio was great. And I was going to San Jose State Universities at that time. Stu and I both. What were you studying? Music.

00:23:32 So you were always destined to be a musician? I got into history for a while, and it was the same subject because history repeats itself. So, anyway, boomboxes were big back then, and in between classes, anyway, you couldn’t play them in class. And this guy had his boombox going, and I hear our song being played. I came up to him, I said, that’s my band.

00:23:58 That’s me playing drums. He says it is. That’s my band. And that’s me playing drums. 00:24:06 And I went, that’s no fun. We get a hit.

00:24:14 How did the name change come about, Cosmo well, it came about because we had to get rid of that silly gollywog name. And so we came up with another silly name in triplicate, credence Clearwater Revival. Tom had a friend named Credence Newball from South Africa, and we thought maybe we call it Credence Newball. And then we go, well, he’ll the action for just having his name on it. We don’t want to do that.

00:24:42 But Credence stuck in there and we added an extra E, because if you had a lot of letters in your name, it was in boldfaced type in the newspaper and really stood out. So there was a method to our madness. Right? Clearwater was a beer back then, and Americans don’t know how to make beer. They didn’t know how then and they don’t know how now.

00:25:04 Same with coffee. I could go for a nice lager. Australian logger. Come on down. We’d love to see you here.

00:25:13 Let me finish. Revival was a revival of ourselves. No more silly uniforms, no more silly names. Well, we got a  silly name, but it’s a cool silly name. It’s not wogish.

00:25:27 And that’s how we did it.

00:27:03 It was 1969 when Proud Mary hit the airway. Hit the airwaves. And that was the same year of the Woodstock Festival, wasn’t it, where you absolutely blew them away? Well, yes and no. The interesting thing to me about it, and here’s your study in history all the big bands.

00:27:25 Let me go back a little bit further. The fellows that were going to put the show on had a concept like a brand, but it hadn’t been successful yet. They hadn’t done it. But the idea intrigued us and what they lacked in experience, they didn’t, and enthusiasm. And all the big bands were sitting around waiting for somebody to jump.

00:27:48 And at that time, we were number one in the world in record sales and number one in the world in concert draw. So we were number one in the world. And when we said, yes, all these guys. Now, here’s the interesting part. What happens if Creedence says, no way would there have been a Woodstock that I certainly didn’t know.

00:28:10 And I didn’t know that you were number one at that time. Yeah, we were number one.

00:29:33 And of course, you’d recorded nine of the top ten hits and performed them at Woodstock. It must have been an incredible time for you. Did you get swept away with all the fame and fortune? Not really. We were too busy.

00:29:49 We were straight and sober when we were doing business and it didn’t have to be a concert or just anything that we’re together doing business on. If we hadn’t been that way, we never would have been able to handle the workload. I was intrigued to find out that you were all super straight and that the worst thing you ever did was a beer and a bit of marijuana. How come you didn’t get pulled into the whole 60s peace, love and drugs movement? Well, we were all married, for one, and had kids, and our mission was to make the best records we could.

00:30:26 And we saw the other bands in town, the Grateful Dead and bands like that. They were so high that they weren’t even in tune. And they were giving each other five coming off the stage saying, wow, we’ve never sounded better, we’ve never played better.

00:30:45vSo we made a pact at the Fillmore West at that time. This is before we had hits. The music will get us high. No beer, no wine, no alcohol, nothing else. And we did that.

00:31:00 A little weed now and then after a show, maybe Stupid and I might sneak out and have a puck, but certainly amazing. So, I mean, the whole audience would have been off their faces. And you guys were all straight? Yeah. Making great music.

00:32:27 There’s a documentary out on credence now. Live at Royal Albert Hall. Yeah, I know. Fabulous. It was a big deal because we were playing in The Beatles house.

00:32:40 We wanted to be number one, and we had a little bit in the States, but we didn’t even have to fight for it, and I really wanted to shine in The Beatles house. Well, you did it. You were number one in the world. They’d broken up and the timing was perfect. What goes through your mind when you look at that documentary now, when you watch yourself play in Albert Hall?

00:33:02 I was just beating the living crap out of those drums. And that’s how I played then because I could.

00:33:18 And I’ve retired from touring now, but to get the power that I had then, it was totally different shift. I used martial arts techniques with my wrist to get that power, because I was slugger, not a boxer. People were after they saw it, they said, Jesus, you just beat the crap out of those drums. I said, I’m playing rock and roll, man. I’m 25 years old.

00:33:45 I have a lot of adrenaline in me and that’s what happens. And I only broke one or two symbols in that show. Wow, it’s pretty demanding, isn’t it, to play drums like that? It’s like a really huge gym workout. Yeah, it is like a gym workout, no question about it.

00:34:03 The difference is you’re using your entire body, your feet, you’re sitting down, so you’re using your feet, but you’re not using them to run, you’re using them to play. Bass drum here, high hat over here, and then upper symbols, high hats and ride symbols and that sort of thing up here. And tom tom’s with your hands. And then as the drummer, you’re carrying that beat. You’re kind of that bass level.

00:34:30 That’s got to keep propelling everybody else forward, don’t you? You can’t just take a rest for a couple of minutes. Oh, there’s no break there’s no break there’s just the love of what I do. There’s nothing like playing for an audience that is definitely into what you’re doing. Money can’t buy that.

00:34:52 Can you still play like that today? No. Stu and I had a band credence. Clearwater revisited. We broke it up two years ago.

00:35:02 Did that for 22 years. 25 years. Excuse me. Could use my  arms to a certain extent, but I found that the risk. And then I brought the drums in a little closer to my body, so I wasn’t reaching.

00:37:11 We’ve heard how the Beatles broke up just four days before CCR performed at London’s Albert Hall, making CCR the number one act in the world. And then it all disappeared. The band was at its peak, having scored 14 consecutive top Ten singles and five consecutive Top Ten albums. What do you think the success of Credence Clearwater Revival was due to?

Because you guys didn’t sound anything like what was going on at the time, did you? That’s why we were and if you put your history hat on and go back to the beginning of rock and roll, that’s pretty much what our bare bones attempt was all about. That’s what we grew up playing when we were the Blue Velvets, when Tom was making these demos and I taught myself how to play drums from records that I would buy, I used my books as drums instead of pencils, and then a little brass light that had a twist neck, and I would play that. My mom came in one night and said, Are you doing your homework? And I said, yes, mom.

00:38:23 She says, Why aren’t your pencils sharpened? She took you out. I don’t want to poke my finger, but I was doing homework. Yeah, which proved very lucrative in the end. Of course.

00:38:37 She must have been very proud of you. That was her dream. On the other hand, my dad was the opposite. He hated the music and was a bit of a racist. And I was buying black music.

00:38:49 I only played them when he wasn’t around. I didn’t want him hearing it because he had threatened to break them. Right, so the influences were black and from the south. In the lyrics, you were talking about bayou’s and boats and all sorts of things, although you’d never even been there, to the best of my knowledge. And of course, John was up there in his hillbilly type outfits, fronting the band.

00:39:16 What was that all about? That’s what he feels comfortable wearing. And on and off stage, cosmo the band broke up after three years of being at the top. Did that come as a shock to you when Tom walked away and said he doesn’t want to do it anymore? It didn’t come out as a shock because he was treated very poorly.

00:39:35 Tom used to be the singer and when John started getting that voice, he gentlemanly. He’s the older brother, too. And Running the Thing gave John the vocals and other things. John said, don’t give me any writing material you’re doing. He was just pushing Tom out.

00:39:57 Was he was taking over? Yeah. So I would stand up for him. That put me in the doghouse, and I was in the doghouse a lot with John. But right is right and wrong is wrong.

00:40:10 He had a sweet tenor, not like John. He didn’t have to write it. He was owed a chance to sing.

00:40:23 Never got it. So that and other things. John was a brilliant talent, but a terrible manager, and that’s what put us under. Yeah, that’s what Stu told me, too. And John drove you really hard also.

00:40:39 I guess from that time, the relationship between John and Tom was completely strained. Yeah. We needed a professional manager, a guy that could bridge the gap between the brothers. That would very important. That would have solved the problem.

00:40:55 But then to also have the business acumen could go in and get us a contract for the number one band in The Lion, one that was fair and worthy of what we were doing. I can’t imagine what possessed John to think that he could be all to everybody. He could play, he could write, he could sing, and he could handle all the business stuff as well. I think, as Stu put it to me, or agreed with what I’d suggested, was that he was the ultimate control freak, the ultimate A plus for his creative side, f minus for his business side. I mean, he didn’t know that he didn’t own his songs, didn’t understand the contracts and on and on and on.

00:41:40 But that’s behind us. Didn’t you guys arc up and try and shape it differently or he was so in control, there was nothing that you could do. Yeah, that was pretty much it. I wasn’t afraid of him getting his face, but it wasn’t going to happen. It wasn’t going to change.

00:41:59 And the good news is we have this legacy of music. The    positive that came out of all of it. Far outweighs the crap. And the crap is crap and gold is gold.

00:43:19 Doug Cosmo, Clifford. We got to 1972 and Tom Fogerty had just left the band. What happens? The band just disintegrates, right? Well, pretty much.

00:43:30 We had an ultimatum from John. Should have seen it coming. But he said, you guys want to be more involved, so you do a third, you do a third, and I’ll do a third of the song. I won’t sing on your songs because I have a unique voice. These are word for word.

00:43:49 We’re saying, that’s not what the fans want, that’s not what we’re asking for. And he says, well, you do it or we break up right now.

00:44:01 And then he said, we made him do it. There’s a lot of negative there and I don’t want to get too carried away on the negative. It’s a new day. Yeah. The long and short of it is, though, that 50 something years later, you still don’t speak to John Fogerty, do you?

00:44:18 No, unfortunately. I have no problem with it. You have to talk to him through his lawyers. And that makes for pretty expensive love letters and not much romance I don’t know. Out stopping at the Lord happy back walking along a river road in Bell girl dashing in my life I can hit a boat calling me warrior into the tree my feet went down the shower so what did you go on to do then, afterwards?

00:45:38 Well, Stu and I had a production company. Because we had the lease on the old factories, we might as well use it. And we built a remote recording vehicle, and the idea would be that we rent the truck out and then we find bands that we want to develop and record. So we did that for about four years. And did you have the rights to keep playing Credence music when you and Stewed became Credence Clearwater revisit it?

00:46:08 Anybody can play this music. You just have to pay a fee for it. It was never a matter of could we play the songs? It was a matter of could we use the name? Which you couldn’t, as it happened.

00:46:20 Well, as it happened, we did. And we could have called a Credence Clearwater Revival, but John wasn’t in it. We didn’t want to try and pull the wool over anybody’s eyes, especially our fans. So we called The Credence clearwater revisited.

00:48:12 Yeah, well, I guess the fans were the big winners because they were still hearing the music. Well, there you go. The fans would have hoped that you would all come together and put your differences behind you and do one last appearance. But, of course, when Tom Fogarty died in 1990, that put an end to that dream, didn’t it? It sure did.

00:48:30 Yeah. And I miss him. He was a sweetheart of a guy, and he got the short end of the stick. And if you look at history, bands with brothers in them always end up on the rocks. People wanted it.

00:48:44 I would hear it every day. Why don’t you guys get together and play live? We’ll get some of us together, and that’s what we did. We wouldn’t have lasted 25 years if we weren’t doing something right. So, Doug, if you’d had your time again, what would have you done differently?

00:49:03 First of all, get an entertainment lawyer, experience manager. That’s what I would do. Also, have this guy mend the fences of Tom and John. Yeah. Doug, we’ve talked about the rockumentary travel and band Credence Clearwater Revival at Albert Hall, and I’d encourage everybody to go and have a look at that, because you just relive the days.

00:49:28 But there’s also a sensational book out about the band. It’s called a song for everyone. The story of credence clearwater revival. What are your thoughts on the book? I think it’s the best one so far for the band, not focusing on the negative so much.

00:49:46 We were very prolific, dedicated to the project. No matter what was going on, bubbling underneath, we lived up to our expectations and then some. So it’s Shakespearean, if you will. The documentary actually shows the first Creedance concert video that’s ever been officially released. And at the end of it, the fans were all up on their feet, clapping and demanding an encore for about 15 minutes.

00:50:13 It’s not that you didn’t want to give them one. What happened there? Well, it was a rule that John had made some time before that he said, Encores are phony, and we’ll never do another one. One of those weird things, and we never did one. I was tempted to run out, but it would have just been a calamity.

00:50:33 Somebody might have gotten hurt. Who knows? But, yeah, some of the idiosyncrasies. John is a shy person in a lot of ways, and when he’s singing, he’s on the microphone facing the audience. When he’s not singing, he turns away from the microphone.

00:50:51 Because I noticed that before. Check it out. Doug, I won’t hold you up very much longer, but you started off telling me that you had a whole lot of music in Cosmos vault. Are we likely to see more from you, Doug, as time goes on? As time goes on.

00:51:06 Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Right now, I have to put my focus on California Gold. That’s what’s on the table right now. So I want to make sure everybody gets a drumstick, every pun intended there.