Doug “Cosmo” Clifford
Doug Clifford achieved fame as the drummer of Creedence Clearwater Revival, a band he put together with his friends Stu Cook, John Fogerty and Tom Fogerty. They were in junior high school when they started playing and achieved worldwide success after signing with Fantasy Records in 1967. Although best known as a drummer, Clifford sang harmony vocals and contributed songs to the Creedence catalogue. He’s been singing, writing songs and making music for as long as he can remember.
After a lifetime on the road – ten years with Creedence Clearwater Revival and its predecessors and 25 years with Creedence Clearwater Revisited – the band he put together with bassist Stu Cook to perform live tunes from the Creedence catalogue – he’s ready to again make his mark as a singer and songwriter. He’ll be releasing Magic Window, a solo album recorded in 1985 and updated in 2020 on April 24, 2020, on CD Baby and all on streaming platforms.
Clifford wrote the Magic Window songs at his piano at his Lake Tahoe, Nevada home. During downtime, he’d gaze out at the lake and mountains and write, sometimes alone, and sometimes with collaborators. “I had an analog studio with a good tape deck, so I could try out ideas without looking at the clock. I’d invite friends in to jam and experiment. I made Magic Window with Russell DaShiell on lead guitar. Russell’s also an engineer and co-produced the sessions with me. I was going to use it to look for a record deal, but I got busy with other projects and touring. I just forgot about it.”
Some of those projects included producing albums for Doug Sahm of the Sir Douglas Quintet and Texas Tornados, playing in Steve Miller’s band and then joining Stu Cook to play Creedence hits with Creedence Clearwater Revisited. They have performed worldwide for 25 years, amassing many fans and crossing multiple generations to bring the wonderful CCR hits to people. They released an RIAA certified platinum live album.
Last year, while cleaning out his garage, Clifford found the Magic Window masters.
“I’d forgotten about the tapes, but they were in great shape. We were able to transfer the recordings to digital and warm things up a bit. I discovered more than 100 songs.”
“Music’s always been a medicine and a meditation for me. It doesn’t matter if I’m down or up. It works both ways. We’ve seen some trying times in the last few years, and we can all use some love and magic. I put my heart and soul into the positive messages on this album. This is a good time to share them with the world.”
The songs on Magic Window took shape organically, over several years. When it was time to record, Clifford invited three friends to his home studio for the freewheeling sessions. Russell DaShiell played lead and rhythm guitars, synthesizer and sang harmonies. Chris Solberg contributed bass and keyboards and Rob Polomsky added rhythm guitar to several tracks. Says Clifford,
“I grew up in the years when rock was evolving. Blues, rockabilly, country, rhythm and blues and folk music were all around me, so I don’t think about genre when I’m writing. I think about groove; the songs all evolved from the groove.”
The first single “Just Another Girl” features dreamy synth laying the foundation for the power ballad which features an R&B rhythm, poetic lyrics and an ardent vocal from Clifford. The B-side of the single is more up-tempo. “Born on the South Side” finds Clifford laying down a Southern Rock, eighth note beat reminiscent of his roots. Solberg’s syncopated bass line and DaShiell’s fills compliment Clifford’s sturdy lead vocal. “You Mean So Much to Me” is a delicate ballad, with synthesizer accents, subtle guitar work and an inventive drum pattern that accents Clifford’s heartfelt singing. Other tracks include “Don’t Let Go,” a celebration of rock’n’roll with a killer hook, and the pure pop of “Don’t Leave Me Alone Tonight.”
People may be surprised by the power and presence of Clifford’s lead vocals, but he’s been singing all of his life.
“I don’t like to sing and play drums at the same time. The singing gets in the way of moving around the way I like to. Before I made this record, I worked on my vocals. When we recorded, I played drums and talked through the tracks. Once we had all the instruments and overdubs done, I sang. I processed the vocals a bit, ‘cause it was the 80s and very contemporary at the time. The same with the synth toms I used, but I stayed true to the ethos of my background and kept things sparse. If a note is added, it has the same value as the notes that surround it. When you don’t jam too many notes in there, it creates tension, and that keeps people listening.”
The Creedence Clearwater Revival Story
It all began in El Cerrito, California, when 3 junior high school friends formed a trio to play local gigs. They called themselves The Blue Velvets, with Doug Clifford on drums, Stu Cook on piano, and John Fogerty on guitar. They frequently backed John’s older brother Tom, who was a solo artist, for his live gigs and studio sessions. They released 3 singles as Tommy Fogerty and The Blue Velvets in the early 60s on Oakland’s Orchestra Records, but none of the singles charted.
By the mid 60s Tom had permanently joined the group. They secured a record deal with Fantasy Records and released 7 singles in the San Francisco Bay area as the Golliwogs. They reconfigured their individual roles in the band during this period, with Tom on rhythm guitar, Stu on bass, and John on lead guitar and lead vocals. Again none of their singles broke through nationally.
Then in 1967 Saul Zaentz bought Fantasy Records and offered the Golliwogs a chance to record a full-length album, on the condition that they change their name. They agreed and in July 1968 Creedence Clearwater Revival released their first album. Their second single off the album, “Susie Q”, was a bonafide hit. It peaked at #11 on the Hot 100 Singles chart and the album eventually went Platinum, selling over a million units.
After touring across the USA Creedence recorded their second album, “Bayou Country”, which was released in 1969. It went double Platinum, producing the hit singles “Proud Mary” and “Born On The Bayou”. 1969 would prove to be a phenomenal year for Creedence. They released two additional multi-Platinum albums, “Green River” and “Willy And The Poor Boys”, and they scored another 6 Hot 100 hit singles. They also toured the nation to sold out audiences, were one of the headliners at Woodstock ’69, and performed live on The Ed Sullivan Show that year.
In June 1970, after a European tour, Creedence recorded their fifth album “Cosmo’s Factory” in San Francisco. It would prove to be their biggest selling album yet, reaching #1 on the album chart. It also included 6 hit songs on the Hot 100 Singles chart. They followed “Cosmo’s Factory” with their 6th multi-Platinum album “Pendulum” in December 1970, which included the hit singles “Have You Ever Seen The Rain” and “Hey Tonight”.
In early 1971 Tom Fogerty decided to leave the band and go solo. John, Doug and Stu remained as a trio. After they did another live tour they recorded their 7th album “Mardi Gras”. Although the album went Gold, reaching #12 on the album chart, and producing the hit singles “Sweet Hitch-Hiker” and “Someday Never Comes”, “Mardi Gras” would prove to be CCR’s final album and the band decided to call it quits.
Numerous Creedence compilation albums have been released over the years, and more recently Fantasy released Creedence’s “Live At Woodstock” album on the 50th anniversary of the festival. In 2020 it’s been rumored that Fantasy will be releasing a new album and Blu-Ray DVD of Creedence “Live at the Albert Hall”. So stay tuned…