Doug Clifford earned nickname at a cosmic toga party

Tahoe Onstage
Fortunate son Doug Doug Clifford was the 2016 Forte Award’s Lifetime Achievement recipient.
Photo by Tony Dellacioppa

A person cannot pick his own nickname. That’s the unwritten yet universal rule about nicknames.

Doug “Cosmo” Clifford certainly knows that because it’s his bailiwick.

“Doug has a nickname for everyone,” said North Shore guitarist Robbie “Gade” Polomsky. “Everybody who I brought over to jam with, he made up a nickname for. He’s pretty funny.”

Polomsky ran a music promotion company called Renegade, and people gave him the moniker Robbie Gade. But Clifford calls him “Glob.”

He doesn’t know why but as a student at San Jose State University, the future Creedence Clearwater Revival drummer was called Clifford C. Clifford. He explained how he later ended up with the cognomen Cosmo.

“Stu Cook (CCR’s bass player) and I lived in an animal house. There were 10 other guys and we had no adult supervision so we had the best parties. It was an old Victorian house in rough shape and we had ants and roaches bad because guys would take half-eaten hamburgers and throw them in the corner. There were no waste baskets. It was pretty crappy.

“It got to the point where it was uncomfortable quarters to live in, so we had a meeting. I have a background in entomology — the study of insects — so I knew how they behaved. You could buy the most lethal poison in the world, Double DEET, right off the shelf at a hardware store. So I got a gallon of that and a loaf of bread and put poison bombs around the house and within two weeks the vermin was gone.

“We were at a toga party and somebody yelled, ‘Hey Clifford C. Clifford, what does the “C” stand for?’ And the first hippie in the house said, ‘Cosmo. He’s cosmic. He’s a man of nature.’ It stuck like poop on a shoe. To this day Stu calls me Cos or Cosmo. If he’s mad at me, he’ll call me Doug.

“Everybody in the band calls me Cos or Cosmo. That’s who I am in the world of rock and roll.”

Creedence Clearwater Revival’s rhythm section: Stu Cook, left, and Doug Clifford.
Photo by Nick McCabe
Notes on Creedence Clearwater Revival

The icy relationship between John Fogerty has thawed a bit, at least on the business aspect. Clifford said he has not spoken with his former bandmate in 25 or 30 years. “But right now we’ve formed a new partnership for merchandise. So at least we’re business partners. I’ve long since put that behind me. I have tape on my rear-view mirror. It would be nice if we could be pals like we were when we started as kids but the bottom line is the legacy of music, and the music that came out in less than four years was a lot of music. We were busy, well organized straight and sober band. No. 1 for a few years in a row for record sales and concert draw so we were up at the top there — lonely at the top as they say.”

Although Creedence Clearwater Revival was considered the headliner at the 1969 Woodstock festival, its performance was not included in the famed movie. Fogerty did not want it used. But 50 years later, CCR’s “Live at Woodstock,” was released Aug. 2, 2019, by Fantasy Records. “We fought John for 45 years and now he’s embraced it.”

CCR took the Woodstock stage at about 1 or 2 a.m., Clifford recalled. The band had followed the Grateful Dead, which had played its most infamous set – putting a quarter-million people to sleep. “It was sleepy, all right,” Clifford said. “We started with ‘Born on the Bayou’ and that’s a hard song not to dance to. We got them up. There were hardly any stage lights. We were in the dark. so it was hard to tell until they applauded at the end and it was a roaring applause. So I think we did a good job at waking people up.”

Want more CCR? Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 1970 concert at Royal Albert Hall soon will be released on video. “It was our first time in Europe,” Clifford said.” Some of the Beatles were in the audience, and I think Eric Clapton was there. It was pretty exciting stuff for us and I think it’s the best live performance that we have recorded.”

— Tim Parsons

Related story: Doug Clifford finds songs made in 1985, puts them in an album.

ABOUT Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons
Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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