by Britt Aamodt, Contributing writer
El Cerrito is a California town of some 20,000 people. Unless you live there, you’d probably opt to visit a better-known Bay Area destination, like San Francisco.
Unless you’re a Creedence Clearwater Revival fan.
Even today, fans flock to El Cerrito from around the globe. It was there in 1959 the Blue Velvets knocked out their first garage band music. Later as Creedence Clearwater Revival, the four-member band would produce some of the most iconic songs of the 1960s: “Proud Mary,” “Born on the Bayou,” “Bad Moon Rising” and “Fortunate Son.”
Friday, Aug. 9, Doug Clifford and Stu Cook, two of CCR’s original members, will be headlining Otsego’s Rockwoods JamFest with their band Creedence Clearwater Revisited. The two-day event begins Friday at 4 p.m., with opening acts taking the stage a half hour later.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited formed in 1995. Since then, they’ve toured their show of CCR classics around the world and played over 100 dates annually.
“We see three generations at our shows,” drummer Clifford said. “In fact, I’ve started seeing a fourth generation, 9-, 10- and 11-year-olds.”
Among their fans are those old enough to remember Woodstock (and that CCR played there). There are those who rocked out to “Fortunate Son” while burning their draft cards. They have fans who discovered CCR on FM radio and those who downloaded their hits on iTunes. And, of course, there are those fans who travel to El Cerrito to see where the magic began.
Clifford’s father was a machinist. His mother was an amateur singer, who occasionally appeared on radio in the 1930s and ’40s. Clifford was born in Paolo Alto in 1945. Two years later, his family moved to El Cerrito.
“There was always music in our house,” Clifford remembered. “My parents’ music would be playing. My mom would be singing.”
When he was 12, Clifford decided he wanted to be a musician. He’d spend his on allowance on 78s and 45s and spin his favorites over and over.
Growing up in the ’50s, the first television generation, Clifford saw his future one night on TV.
“I saw a TV special with Gene Krupa,” he said. Krupa was a drummer from the Big Band-era. “He was like Elvis with this black greasy hair. I like to say he brought drummers out of the dark ages.”
Before Krupa, drummers receded into the background, poorly lit, ignored, just there to keep time. But Krupa looked good and sounded better. He was a superstar, and Clifford wanted to be him.
The adolescent had a problem, however. He didn’t own a drum set.
“So I practiced with my school books and pencils and a brass lamp, which had a flex neck, that I used like a cymbal,” he said.
Eventually he bought an old drum kit and spent hours cleaning and refurbishing it.
The formation of CCR is legendary. Clifford heard someone playing piano in the music room at Portola Junior High School in El Cerrito.
“It was John (Fogerty, future CCR lead singer). I just stood there listening to him,” said Clifford. When Fogerty finished, Clifford said, “Hey, that’s Fats Domino and Little Richard” – music forbidden in the school music room.
Fogerty admitted he was more of a guitarist. Clifford said he was a drummer and knew a pianist, Stu Cook, another Portola student, whose dad had a rumpus room they could use.
“I said this without having first talked with Stu or his dad. But I was wheeling and dealing back then,” he said.
Their trio, the Blue Velvets, backed Fogerty’s older brother Tom. Later, Tom joined the group as rhythm guitarist. They took the name CCR in 1967 and within three years they were one of the biggest bands in the world.
Clifford never thought he’d be playing drums into his 60s. He’s 68 this year.
“We haven’t grown up,” he said. “We’re still teens at heart. Hey, it’s rock and roll.”
4th Annual Rockwoods JamFest
Classic Rock Night
Friday, Aug. 9 … Gates Open 5 p.m.
ZZ3, a tribute to ZZ Top, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
Satisfaction, a tribute to The Rolling Stones, 6:50 to 8:20 p.m.
Fabulous Armadillos, a tribute to the Eagles, 8:40 to 10:10 p.m.
Creedence Clearwater Revisited, 10:30 p.m. to midnight
*Times subject to change without notice.
Saturday, Aug. 10 … Gates Open 4 p.m.
Tim Sigler Band, 430 to 5:40 p.m.
Shane Martin Band, 6 to 7:10 p.m.
Greg Bates, 7:30 to 8:40 p.m.
Josh Thompson, 9 to 10:10 p.m.
Joe Nichols, 10:30 p.m. to midnight