Fred Cole, the Portland punk legend best known for fronting the bands Dead Moon and Pierced Arrows, has died, according to several colleagues and family members on social media. He was 69 years old.
Cole had been admitted to the hospital last month and treated for bleeding in his liver. While an operation to repair the damage was successful, updates on the Pierced Arrows Facebook page indicated that he was "still very ill."
Born in Las Vegas, Cole started his music career in the '60s, first gaining attention with garage rock band the Weeds, which later changed its name to the Lollipop Shoppe. Relocating to Portland, Cole met his wife, Kathleen "Toody" Conner, while she was working the door at Crystal Ballroom. They married in 1967 and had three children, Weeden, Amanda and Shane.
After stints in several other bands, Cole founded Dead Moon in 1987, with Toody Cole on bass and drummer Andrew Loomis. Playing a dark brand of punk with shadings of blues and country, the trio influenced many bands from the Pacific Northwest—including Pearl Jam, who's covered their songs in concert—and gained a cult following in Europe.
"As they continued, and got better and better, and I got to know them, I could see the passion, love and heart in what they did so much more clearly," Mudhoney guitarist Steve Turner told WW in 2014. "Fred's managed to write his and Toody's life together into some sort of grand opera of rock'n'roll."
The group remained fiercely independent during their 20-year run, recording and pressing records at the Coles' home in Clackamas and releasing them on their own label, Tombstone Records.
Shortly after Dead Moon broke up in 2006, the Coles formed Pierced Arrows with drummer Kelly Halliburton. In 2014, Dead Moon reunited to celebrate the Crystal Ballroom's 100th anniversary, and played occasional shows afterward. Health issues plagued Fred during that period. He had emergency heart surgery three years ago, and collapsed onstage during a show at Bumbershoot in Seattle. After Loomis died last year, the Coles retired from rock'n'roll, though they continued to perform acoustically as a duo covering songs from all their projects together.
"Fred cannot handle being up onstage for an hour and a half with a 25 pound guitar wrapped around his head," Toody Cole said at the time. "He's becoming too unsteady on his legs; his feet are numb…The last thing he wants to do is look like a complete parody of himself up there and do anything like fall over. He's a very proud man, and he doesn't need it that badly."
On Oct. 5, Portland celebrated "Dead Moon Night" at City Hall, honoring the band's legacy and contributions to the city's music culture. Mississippi Records is releasing a new Dead Moon book and record set next year.