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Interview: Doug Clifford of Creedence Shows Their Christmas Spirit

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Every Christmas we see the promotion of new albums with the old classic songs remade but how many of these albums carry the true Christmas spirit of giving? Creedence Clearwater Revisited drummer Doug Clifford vouches that the full proceeds of their Christmas song "Run Run Rudolph" on the Juvenille Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) album Hope for the Holidays are wholly donated to the worthy cause. Other artists include Weezer, Collective Soul, and The Beach Boys to name a few others who have also donated songs to the album. I spoke to Doug Clifford over the phone about Revisited recording "Run Run Rudolph" and what it's been like playing those classic Creedence hits again.

I'm not the biggest fan of Christmas tunes and perhaps I did hide my Mum's "Elvis sings Christmas" cassette (remember those) when I was younger but, after listening to "Run Run Rudolph" I began to find myself discovering a little lost holiday spirit buried deep inside. The music instantly put a smile on my face as it was not only a great Chuck Berry track redone but, it was performed in the original Creedence style that they are so well known for and it definitely carried that reminiscent Creedence Clearwater sound. As Doug Clifford likes to call it, "Creedence meets Chuck Berry".

We all remember Creedence Clearwater Revival from the '60s and '70s. Those days when live music sounded exactly the same as the album. They have sold over 26 million records in the US alone and their hits are too many to list in full. Some hits to recall are "Fortunate Son", "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" and "Proud Mary". I was having a little trouble understanding why they played under the new name, Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Original Revival band members Stu Cook (bassist) and Doug Clifford (drummer) reformed the band in 1995 without previous members, the Fogerty brothers. In their place, three long standing and talented musicians took on the Creedence title. They are; Steve Gunner, Tal Morris (Vocals), John Tristao and Revival was replaced by Revisited. Doug Clifford who has been drummer in both bands explains, "This is 'Revisited's 15th year. Stu's my best old pal and it's a lot of fun. The fans are enjoying the music and we are enjoying the fans."

Alongside the Hope for the Holidays album single "Run Run Rudolph", Revisitied's recently released a CD titled Recollection which has the hits they have not been able to play for over 20 years re-released. I asked Doug how it felt to be playing the old classics again. "Oh it's great. The music is wonderful. It's a great catalogue. When we walk out on stage we are going to play 20 songs and everyone's a hit. Everybody that really knows Creedence knows every song. The younger folk know the obvious ones but then they hear the more obscure ones that were still hits, it's an interesting experience for them. So, it's just a joy to play them."

With Revival having not played since the early '70s, Clifford and his best mate, Stu Cook played in the Don Harrison band and they also formed Factory Productions. The drummer for the band explains to me what it's like to play the Creedence hits again live. "There's nothing like it. Live music is a wonderdrug. I was never into drugs but if this is what it's like, I might change my mind. There's nothing quite like going out with a great band, tearing it up and watching the people give you that energy back. That's what it's all about. I get a great adrenaline rush every time I go out and play. I'm just very thankful that I'm able to go out and do it," answers the established drummer who shows obvious passion towards his music.

Doug has been working on promoting the new Christmas album Hope for the Holidays which sees "100% of the profits going towards fighting this disease. We are not going in charging a royalty. The profits that come out of the record are all going to the foundation. I'm thrilled about it. There are a lot of great artists on there too. There's something for everybody." Doug has been spending 12 hours a day over seven days each week to help put out the word for this Christmas album. "I'm recovering from rotator cuff surgery and a few other complications from 50 years of drumming. I'm ahead of the rehabilitation. It's given me a lot of time to work on this project so, it was meant to be."

Revisited's Clifford has shown true spirit in helping raise funds for the JDRF. "I've gotten very active with it. I've been working radio, I've gotten over 2000 stations to go (with) the record." So, what made Revisited choose "Run Run Rudolph" as their song for the album? "That was Stu's idea. I think it really was a great idea. It fits well with us. It was a song we listened to when it first came out in like 1954-55. We were young kids back in the day. It fits what we do quite well." Doug also added that the inspiration for the album came from "the fellow that mixed our Recollection album which is a platinum album that Revisited did. He asked us if we'd like to put a song out and be on it (Hope for the Holidays CD). We said sure! We were in Milwaukee somewhere. It happened all at once and I love it. It has great energy."

Christmas, like for most people, is a really meaningful time for Doug. For someone that works ten months of the year, he explains what Christmas time means to himself, "I have a five month old baby grand daughter and an eight year old grandson. It's a family time for me. I'm gone so much that my lovely wife allows for me to go out and do what I do. When I'm home, I've got to make sure I can spend as much time with them." After 41 years of marriage, it seems the musician has an understanding and loving relationship with his wife and family.

Having 50 years experience as a drummer, I had to ask Clifford who has inspired him musically over the years. Doug responded, "Jean Cooper the great jazz drummer made me want to play drums. When I was a drummer in Creedence, Al Jackson Junior from Booker T and The MG's was a friend and brilliant drummer. There are some great people that have influenced me along the way.I certainly admire the Beatles and what they were able to do. Elvis was one of the influences on me. I saw him on Ed Sullivan and he was blocked out from the waist down. That created the mystique right there."

I was also curious as to what a high selling artist like Doug Clifford would think of his earlier musical accomplishments. This man has rightfully had his name engraved in history having not only played at Woodstock alongside other great musicians but had hits around the world. When I asked the drummer about his past Creedence history he answered, "I don't do much looking back. I pretty much look forward more than anything else. Now that we're finally in the Woodstock package where people can actually see us play, that was a thrill for me. It was an amazing feat that will never be repeated. So it was great to be a part of it. Those are the things that I sorta look back at. There was a lot that went on back in those days. There are some very high points, that being one."

After promoting the current Christmas Hope for the Holidays album for JDRF where does Creedence Clearwater Revisited go to from here? "We're gonna continue what we're already doing but what we're gonna do is go into the albums," replies Doug. Revisited are currently mixing a new album of a few covers songs from other bands, as well as inviting some of the old Creedence tunes that were a little more obscure to be recorded on it too. "It gives people a deeper insight into what we did with songs that weren't necessarily hits," says Doug. Revisited seems to give back so much back to their fans and it will be a real treat to hear the mix of old and new once the album is released.

As seen in other interviews, Doug Clifford always remembers the people who listen to his music and leaves this Christmas message for the old and new fans, "Take good care of yourselves and put the love out. We're in a rough time economically, the world is going through some pretty bizarre changes. Keep the positive attitude as best as you can. Just love the people around you that matter. Enjoy life." With that last message, and the guilty feeling I have for hiding my Mum's Christmas cassette all those years back, I'm off to do my part of Christmas good and purchase the album for a little make up gift. Not only is the music great but it's for a cause I can't ignore.

If you're after that something special that envisages a loving ideal of Christmas, then check out Amazon, iTunes or the major stores for this gift.
If it's live music you're looking for with that original sound that energises the crowd, Revisited are on tour in the new year from March around the US and they even manage to pop over to China. You can find their tour dates on their site at Creedence Revisited.

Hope for the Holidays album with Creedence Clearwater Revisited's accompanying version of "Run Run Rudolph" is out now!

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About Hayley_Fontaine

An Aussie woman who's recently moved to the US & is trying to make use of her photography, film and writing skills to pave a career path as a multimedia journalist.