A Conversation With:
Classic Drummer Hall of Famer Doug “Cosmo” Clifford about CCR and “Magic Window”…and other stuff.
By Classic Drummer Founder
CD: Hi Doug, you’ve got a new album release called “Magic Window” that was released on April 24, 2020. When was that originally recorded and where?
Cosmo: That was recorded in my home studio in 1985. Oh, and I’d like to mention the retirement of Creedence Clearwater Revisited.
CD: How long was the CCRevisited run?
Cosmo: It lasted 25 years. Me and Stu (Cook) created Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We had a five year plan, but it went on much longer. The original Creedence Clearwater Revival lasted four years professionally, plus the ten years we were together since we were thirteen years old. Suzie Q, originally a rockabilly song by Dale Hawkins, was a hit on our first album in 1968. We were 23 years old. We recorded three more albums in 1969 and two albums in 1970 and one in 1972. Cosmos Factory (1970) was the #1 album nine weeks in a row. CCR was the #1 record selling band two years in a row (1969 and 1970). We recorded 7 studio albums and 2 live albums (Royal Albert Hall) plus Woodstock Live in the four years we were together professionally.
CD: How long of a set did CCR play at Woodstock?
Cosmo: About fifty-five minutes. I think that was the format back then. Woodstock was a concept…nobody had experience putting that large of a concert together back then. After we signed on, other bands followed. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the #1 concert draw at that time. Not everyone knows we played Woodstock because we weren’t in the movie. The following night we played a gig in NJ with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
CD: How was the monitor situation at Woodstock? Were you able to hear your drums and the band?
Cosmo: I think they had some cross fills, but I couldn’t hear the music like I was used to hearing. I always had large wedges (monitors) and I could feel the music. That’s what I always had with the band. Life Magazine ran a photo of me playing at Woodstock wearing my Mickey Mouse t-shirt.
CD: And you mentioned Royal Albert Hall?
Cosmo: Yes, that show was recorded and should be released in the fall of this year on DVD. It wasn’t a flashy show…we just did our thing…(John) Fogerty was shy, so when he would take a lead solo, he would turn toward me…I was sort of his security blanket. No drum riser, so my drums were set up on the floor.
CD: Back to Magic Window…so you did all the vocal tracks?
Cosmo: Yes, I did all the vocal tracks. The magic window was the window in my home studio in Lake Tahoe. It was a large window 1,000 feet above and overlooking the lake. I had a 16 track Ampex tape machine and a 24 input Trident mixing board plus some electronic gear set up in my studio. That made it very easy to work and lay down my vocals. I worked very hard on my vocal tracks and was able to spend lots of time on them since it was my home studio. That made things much easier.
CD: What was your method of songwriting?
Cosmo: I like to co-write with another person. Robbie Polomsky was my songwriting partner and he also played guitar. I used the piano to create melodies and Robbie would play guitar riffs. This was how some of the songs were born. There are ten songs on Magic Window…three of the songs were written by myself, four were co-written with Robbie, two with Chris Solberg, and one with Russell DaShiell.
On Magic Window, ex-Norman Greenbaum guitarist Russell DaShiell played guitar and was engineer and co-producer, along with myself as producer.
Former Santana bassist Chris Solberg is also on the album and a collaborator on the project, and Rob Polomsky played rhythm guitar.
CD: Are there any overdubs on Magic Window that were added to the original recording.
Cosmo: Yes, I had the original two-track stereo master tape, so we used Pro Tools to add the guitar overdubs. “Born On The South Side” has guitar overdubs (and CCR overtones “author”).
CD: What drums did you use on the recordings?
Cosmo: I used my Camco’s and my cymbals. I used Simmons toms. You can hear the Simmons on the recordings.
CD: Yes, I noticed the Simmons…I think they work nicely on the tracks. How did you decide the order of the songs on the album.
Cosmo: Well, all the chapters had to make sense…everything plays well in that order.
CD: Between 1985 and 1995, the year (1995) that you and Stu (Cook) started Creedence Clearwater Revisited, did you play with any other artists?
Cosmo: Yes, I played and toured with Doug Sahm (Sir Douglas Quintet). I recorded three albums with Doug. I produced two of Doug’s albums “Day Dreaming at Midnight” and “Groovers Paradise”. I had to enforce a strict work ethic with Doug…we had that same work ethic with Creedence Clearwater Revival.
I also did demos in Nashville with Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass.
CD: In 1972, you released you first solo album titled “Cosmo”. What led to that album?
Cosmo: CCR had broken up. We still had the lease on Cosmo’s Factory. And it had a big rehearsal area with 16-foot long drapes. I always wanted to play with a horn section, so I got the Tower of Power horns to play on that album. I always wanted to do an album with my buddy Donald “Duck” Dunn, so we had Duck Dunn in there. Stu always wanted to play rhythm guitar, so he played guitar on the album. It was more of an experiment. I wanted to try mobile recording, so we ran a snake from the recording van into Cosmo’s Factory, our rehearsal studio, and recorded everything live. I did the final vocals tracks after the instrument tracks were recorded.
I also formed bands and recorded my songs with Bobby Whitlock, Steve Wright from El Cerrito (bassist with The Greg Kihn Band), and even Joe Satriani (Speedy Fingers Joe) who was playing in bands in the Bay Area at the time.
When we were in Memphis, we stopped at Stax Records. I saw Al Jackson, Jr. pull up in a Cadillac and I ran up to him and said you’re my idol…we became friends and we took Booker T. & the M.G.’s on tour with us. Al became my mentor. We spent a lot of time together talking about music. He asked me, “What are your goals?” I told him that I wanted to play like a metronome…he said, “Why”? Metronomes are machines, you’re human. You can play within each beat to create feel. Too far ahead and you’re rushing or too far behind and you’re dragging. Music is live, not a machine. That took a lot of pressure off of me. I practiced and played differently after that.They played 31 dates with CCR.
CD: Which CCRevival album is your favorite?
Cosmo: Bayou Country…Born on the Bayou is my favorite CCR song.
CD: How did you come up with the quarter note ride pattern for Suzie Q?
Cosmo: We used to play six nights a week, five sets a night (45 minute sets). We had to stretch out the sets as much as possible and we had to keep people on the dance floor. The original Dale Hawkins version is rockabilly (John loved rockabilly and we originally played it like Dale Hawkins), but I came up with that beat to make the song more danceable and to allow space between the notes in the groove for the guitar parts to come alive. It’s a simple and powerful groove. On the recording, the drums fade in and at the end of the song, the drums fade out. I came up with that beat after listening to The Temptations’ “Ain’t to Proud to Beg”. In the chorus, the drummer goes to the ride cymbal bell. Same beat as Born on the Bayou, but on Born on the Bayou I hit the crash cymbal a lot on 2 and 4, along with my snare backbeats.
Cosmo: A story I want to tell…I started buying records when I was nine years old. My first record that I bought was a 78 (rpm) called Roll With Me Henry by Etta James and my second record I bought was Bo Diddley’s “Bo Diddley”. John would always cut school to listen to records. I would listen to records a lot too, but I had to wait until after school. My old man wouldn’t go for that.
When I was eleven, I watched Elvis Presley on the Ed Sullivan Show. They blacked Elvis out from the waist down and the audience was going nuts. That was the biggest break they could have ever given him…I said, “I want to do that”. I didn’t know what I was going to play, but I finally figured that out.
When we made it, we were with Concerts West (Touring Company). They only had four bands signed at the time, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, The Beach Boys, and us (CCR). When Elvis played the Oakland Coliseum, we were told that Elvis loved our music and that he wanted to meet us. We went to his concert and Elvis stops the song they were playing and said, “I know they’re out there, I know they’re out there. This is for the Creedence boys”, and then counts one, two, three, four, and goes right into Proud Mary. I think we were all crying…
CD: What other band or artist would you have liked to play with in your career?
Cosmo: Well, I’ve played several gigs with Steve Miller. One was at the Knebworth Fair in London to 120,000 people. That was 1975. We were second on the bill with Pink Floyd. Steve’s contract had run out and he was trying to get another deal. That was the first time the song “Rock’n Me Baby” was played live in front of an audience. We rehearsed 22 songs in two days. Steve had played Rock’n Me Baby on acoustic guitar to introduce the song to me the day before. The tempo was really fast. I told Steve we should slow it down and so I counted it off and the tempo stayed that way. Les Dudek played guitar with us and Lonnie Turner played bass. When Steve asked me to do the show, I told him I would have to refuse his offer. He asked why? I told him I would need a ticket for my wife also. So Laurie came with me to the show.
CD: On the album cover Wille And The Poorboys, did you know who the young black kids were in the photograph?
Cosmo: No, we wanted to set up in front of the Duck Kee Market which was near our rehearsal studio. As we were setting up, they gathered around and asked, “What are you doing?” They were pretty cool.
CD: And finally…whose bicycle is on the album cover of Cosmo’s Factory?
Cosmo: It was mine. I rode that bike seven and a half miles to work everyday…shortly after that picture was taken, while riding my bike, I was hit by a car. No serious injuries…just a lot of scrapes. I had to wear a long sleeve shirt to gigs after that until I healed up. John named that album after me because he was shy and he didn’t want to deal with the press.
Cosmo: I would like to thank Classic Drummer and three generations of fans…they are why we are having this conversation. Cosmo’s Factory is 50 years old this month (July). My dreams have come true twice, once with Creedence Clearwater Revival and once with Creedence Clearwater Revisited. We’ve played all over the world and it makes my day when someone comes up to me and says, “You’re the reason I started playing drums”. And I’m still living the dream with Magic Window! I wouldn’t change a thing!
You can get “Magic Window” at dougcosmoclifford.com and all music download sites.
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