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Doug Clifford Interview ​2019, Part 2: Woodstock (Subscriber Content)

By Nick McCabe
Published: Last Updated on

Since this year marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I wanted to ask Doug about his experience there. Knowing what I know about it, the first thing I wondered about was how they got in and out of there.

Doug Clifford
Image: Nick McCabe.

DOUG: Woodstock for us was a logistical nightmare. The day before, we were doing an Andy Williams Special in L.A. and there were three different unions on set making it ridiculous to get anything done. I remember one of our guys moved a prop 6” and it shut everything down. It was bullshit the way they did things. It was taking forever. We told them we had to get going for a gig in New York and had time for one more take. So, in the middle of it there a loud howl, not from our equipment though, and you see John roll his eyes, but that was it. That was the take. So we caught a red eye from LA to New York. Because of the huge crowd the only way in to the gig was a two man helicopter (the pilot was one man). They would take two people in at a time, but one man had to be half in and half out of the helicopter. So John and I went in together. John was inside, I was hanging on to his seatbelt with my left hand and I had the door closed as far as it would go with a gap of about 6” with my foot outside on the skid. 

 This was going on as the sun was starting to go down. I remember as we came up over this rise, there it was. I remember I said, “Man, this is a patchwork quilt of humanity.” With all the colors it looked like a makeshift quilt. [We had seen crowds of 150,000 before] and this was at least three times that. Stu said it best, “It’s not about the bands. It’s about the people who came and had no potable water, food, or shelter…and people just shared what they had with complete strangers, and it was truly peace, love and music.”

Image: Nick McCabe.

You could just feel the energy there. People were smiling and sliding in the mud, running around naked and just enjoying themselves in the worst of conditions. It will never happen again.

ME: Did you venture out into the crowd at all?

DOUG: I did not. We were in the backstage area, and it was muddy as hell out there. We were with Bill Graham’s guy. He had a Winnebago and some steaks and French wine. The people he was representing didn’t want to be around him, the ‘business guy,’ but he was a pretty cold guy. They were off taking acid, but we weren’t doing any of that. We were just biding our time [until we had to play], so we had a nice steak dinner. I felt kind of bad, you know. People on the other side of the fence smelling it and saying, wow that smells pretty good!  We just had to wait.

To this day I don’t know how our equipment got in. Bands were going way over their time limit, The Grateful Dead being one of them. We had to follow them after two hours. They did a 45-minute version of Turn on Your Lovelight, and they just couldn’t find the pocket to save their ass. We got on between 1 and 3 in the morning and it was pitch black. John yelled, “Is there anybody out there?, and somebody yelled back, “We’re with you!” There were tons of equipment problems plus the rain, but we finally played. We weren’t in the movie, and I won’t go into that, but we fought all these years and this year it’ll be released in the Woodstock 50th Anniversary package.

Getting out was another story. We had a $100 bill, which was a lot more money in those days. We found a farm boy with snow tires on the back of his car and he knew all the secret roads around there. We told him we would give him this hundred dollar bill if he could get us out of there, and he did. We were rescued by the farm boy!

This is part two of two of my interview with Doug Clifford. Part one is also available on ThisisReno.

Creedence Clearwater Revisited has an upcoming show at The Nugget in Sparks on March 24.

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