Fred Cole is surprised he made it to age 63. It hasn’t been because he decided take it easy. He still rocks, tours and records, something he’s been doing since he was 14 years old.
His storied career in underground music is legendary, spanning five decades and countless genres. Fred Cole’s bands have played with groups as disparate as The Doors, The Ramones, AC/DC and Black Lips. “This year is my fiftieth playing on stage,” remarks Cole. “I’ve never been away from it longer than six months.”
It’s not a stretch to say Fred Cole has been at the center of some of the most influential modern rock movements from the early ‘60s to early ‘90s. Eddie Vedder, frontman for Pearl Jam, gave a handwritten endorsement of Fred and his wife Toody’s new album, concluding, “Fred and Toody epitomize the true potential and purest meaning of straight, no chaser rock-and-roll.”
See Fred and Toody Live!
Fred and Toody will be playing an acoustic set encompassing music from The Weeds to Pierced Arrows.
- Friday, March 16
- Ash Street Saloon, 224 SW Ash Street, Portland
- Music at 8:30 pm, $8 cover
Fred met Toody in 1966, when his band’s car broke down in Portland on the way to Alaska. Toody was sweeping the floors at the first venue where they got a gig. The two were hitched a year later, at 18, and have been together ever since.
At that time, Fred’s band — a psychedelic garage rock group named The Weeds and later known as The Lollipop Shoppe — toured up and down the West Coast, playing the psychedelic scene with bands like Janis Joplin, The Byrds and Love.
In his early 30s, Fred was playing with King Bee, an old blues and rock-and-roll band. But everything changed when he opened for The Ramones. “They totally turned me on to the whole punk speed of things,” says Fred.
Fred, who was primarily a lead singer at that point, started focusing on learning guitar and writing more up-tempo songs. Encapsulating the amateur punk-rock ethos of the time, he taught Toody how to play bass and recruited a friend, Rod Hibbert — who had never played drums before — to be their drummer. Together they started playing punk shows in the Northwest as The Rats.
As with his earlier band Lollipop Shoppe, Fred found himself at the center of another musical revolution. It was 1979 and punk was blossoming. The Rats played with everyone: Black Flag, The Dead Kennedys, The Misfits … and the list goes on.
After The Rats, the Coles joined with a diehardfan, Andrew Loomis, to forge Dead Moon, their most influential band to date. Together for 20 years, the band recorded a dizzying amount of songs, played countless shows and cultivated a diehard cult following — grunge champions Nirvana and Pearl Jam both cite the band as a major influence.
After five decades in rock-and-roll, it’s hard for Fred to imagine not playing music. The Coles’ latest group Pierced Arrows, released an album for VICE Records, but has since returned to their own DIY label Tombstone Records. Pierced Arrows continues to record and tour the world, playing with bands like Dinosaur Jr. and Godspeed You Black Emperor!
Beyond their musical legacy, Fred and Toody have made a life together. They have three children and seven grandchildren. They built a Western-themed general store by hand (which they sold) and the now-defunct Tombstone music store.
Sitting in Tombstone Music, the Coles perform an acoustic testament to their many years together (see video above). Fred wrote the new song “We Won’t Break” about never losing sight of what’s important — his everlasting love for Toody. In between verses, Fred shares a story about an international tour with Dead Moon and the broken teeth that followed.
You can see Fred and Toody perform an acoustic set on Friday, March 16 at the Ash Street Saloon in Portland.