Fortunate Son: Doug ‘Cosmo’ Clifford finds his voice on ‘Magic Window’

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford just can’t stop making music.

Even though Clifford and his bandmates in Creedence Clearwater Revisited stopped touring last year, the drummer is releasing his own music.

On April 17—his 75th birthday—Clifford sent “Magic Window” to CD Baby and all streaming platforms. The album was recorded in 1985 and updated earlier this year.

“It’s filled with surprises,” says Clifford, who winters in Scottsdale. “I’m very, very proud of it. I found (the tapes) going through a locker in the garage. It had all this old stuff from my studio. The master tapes had more than 100 songs. I always made sure if someone picked up the songs, they would be ready to play.”

Clifford wrote the songs sitting at the piano in his Lake Tahoe, Nevada, summer home. More than 6,000 feet altitude, the home is surrounded by bears and deer. During his downtime, he’d gaze out at the lake and mountains and write, sometimes alone, sometimes with collaborators.

“I had an analog studio with a good tape deck, so I could try out ideas without looking at the clock,” he says. “I’d invite friends in to jam and experiment. I made ‘Magic Window’ with Russell DaShiell on lead guitar. He’s also a good 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 forgot about it.”

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 as Creedence Clearwater Revisited in 1995.

That group performed worldwide for 25 years, amassing many fans and crossing multiple generations to bring the CCR hits to people. They also released a platinum-certified live hits album.

“We had a dream when we were 13. That’s when we started the band originally,” Clifford says.

“Our dream was to have the songs played on the radio. We had 52 years of hits on the radio. The Revisited project was 25 of touring. No one was more surprised than us that we lasted that long.”

When Clifford found is songs, there were 100 in the locker. “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.

“I grew up in the years rock was evolving,” he says. “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.”

Clifford cowrote with Polomsky, Solberg and DaShiell. Three songs, Clifford wrote by himself.

“I’m the writer on every song. I’m the singer on every song,” he says. “I’m not just the drummer anymore. I love to drum. It was a fun project. Everybody was on the same page. You hire good guys, you make sure your door is open.

“You have them there for a reason. I told them, ‘If you hear anything or think of an idea that might improve something, let me know.’ It’s the best I’ve ever sung in my life. I had a studio in my house.”

Once “Magic Window” is out and fans have digested it, Clifford is going to start the writing process again.

“I’m not touring anymore,” he says. “The creative bug is biting pretty hard.

“I had cancer give years ago and radiation did more damage than the cancer, I think. I’m OK, but I have Parkinson’s. My body was saying, ‘No more.’ Plus, I have a bad back. I played the drums for 60 years. I was sitting off to one side. My right foot on the bass drum, my left foot on the high hat. My back will go out now just because of the damage done to my muscles in my lower back. But you know what? I’d do it all again.”

Music isn’t Clifford’s only love. Armed with a biology background, Clifford won the Incline Village, Nevada, Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year award in 1991 for a program he created to stop or hinder wildfire.

“It turned out to be the No. 1 program in the nation,” he says. “Washington was sending busloads of geeks to see what I was doing.

“I was the only guy to get that award who wasn’t a chamber member. Those were mullet days, too. I went to the state senate and was dealing with the federal government. It became a full-time job. It was the best thing I’ve ever done as a human.”

As is his family.

“I’m looking forward to staying home and making up for some of the birthdays I missed along the way,” he says. “My grandkids and wife, you give up a lot when you’re on the road. I’ll be around for the next batch of birthdays.”