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A singer and guitarist who became a hero of the Northwest music scene of the 1990s, he set a standard for do-it-yourself perseverance.
Fred Cole, a guitarist and singer who became a cult hero of the Pacific Northwest music scene as the leader of the long-running garage-rock band Dead Moon, died on Thursday at his home in Clackamas, Ore. He was 69.
The cause was cancer, said his wife and bandmate, Toody Cole.
As the grunge gold rush in the 1990s made stars of young bands in and around Seattle like Nirvana and Soundgarden, Mr. Cole and Dead Moon remained beloved local stars despite being decades older than their peers.
Well into his 40s by then, Mr. Cole had been a regular of the garage-rock circuit — playing a rough and raw sound that long predated grunge’s noisy take on punk — since the mid-1960s, when he was a member of the Lollipop Shoppe, which had a minor hit in 1968 with “ You Must Be a Witch .”
But with Dead Moon and various other groups over the years, Mr. Cole set a standard for do-it-yourself perseverance. He and his wife released records on their own label, Tombstone, with a dark, handmade aesthetic. He even cut lacquer discs, used to make vinyl records, on an old mono lathe at their home outside Portland; according to legend, it was the same machine used to make the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” in 1963.
In a scratchy wail, Mr. Cole led Dead Moon in ragged, macabre-obsessed songs, like “Graveyard” and “Dead Moon Night,” that sounded as though they could have been made at any time in the last 50 years.
From its first album, “In the Graveyard,” in 1988, until it disbanded in 2006, Dead Moon stayed far under the radar of the mainstream music industry, building a following around the world while still being celebrated as local heroes. Besides Ms. Cole on bass — she was usually credited simply as Toody — the band included Andrew Loomis on drums.
“We felt proud of them up here,” said Dean Whitmore, an executive at Sub Pop Records in Seattle, who worked with Dead Moon on a 2006 compilation album, “Echoes of the Past.” “They were the real deal, and they were ours.”
Frederick Lee Cole was born on Aug. 28,1948, in Tacoma, Wash., and moved with his mother to Las Vegas, where he attended high school. But as he recounted in the Dead Moon song “ Kicked Out — Kicked In,” he was dismissed from school at age 16 for having long hair and a bad attitude.
By then he was already a veteran of bands, including the Lords and the Weeds. In 1966, the Weeds were told that they could play with the Yardbirds at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Upon arriving, Ms. Cole said in an interview, the band learned it had no such invitation.
Intending to avoid the Vietnam draft, the young men decided to drive north to Canada, but ran out of gas in Portland. There Mr. Cole met Kathleen Conner, nicknamed Toody.
They married in June 1967. The Weeds, signed to the same label as the Strawberry Alarm Clock, were renamed the Lollipop Shoppe. They released one album, “Just Colour,” the following year, before breaking up.
In the 1970s, while Mr. Cole continued to pursue a music career, he and his wife started their first of several retail businesses in and around Portland, including a music store called Captain Whizeagle’s, and they also began to raise a family. In addition to his wife, Mr. Cole is survived by their two sons, Weeden and Shane; a daughter, Amanda; and seven grandchildren.
It was only when Ms. Cole was about 30, after years of her “doing the domestic thing” and raising their children, she said, that her husband asked her to play music with him.
“Fred talked me into it,” she said. “He was so sick of male bass players who were flaky as hell.”
They started the Rats in 1980, and later recruited Mr. Loomis to form Dead Moon. A year after the group broke up, the Coles founded Pierced Arrows with another drummer, Kelly Halliburton. With Mr. Cole’s health worsening, the couple officially retired from performing in 2016. That year, Mr. Loomis, who had lymphoma, died at 54.
Dead Moon appeared in “Hype!,” a 1996 film about the grunge era in Seattle, and in 2006 the band got its own documentary, “ Unknown Passage: The Dead Moon Story .” Next year, its career will be documented in a book to be published by Mississippi Records, a label and record store in Portland that has been reissuing Dead Moon’s catalog.
As the music industry descended on Seattle and the Northwest in the early ’90s, Dead Moon stayed its course, releasing records on Tombstone and touring constantly.
Asked what it was like to be an older couple in the midst of a youth-driven media frenzy, Ms. Cole said, “Most of the young ones had a hard time keeping up with us.”

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