NEW YORK — Fred Cole, a guitarist and singer who became a cult hero of the Pacific Northwest music scene as leader of the long-running garage-rock band Dead Moon, died 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 such as Nirvana and Soundgarden, Fred 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 other groups over the years, Mr. Cole set a standard for do-it-yourself perseverance. He and his wife released records on their label, Tombstone, with a dark, handmade aesthetic.
In a scratchy wail, Mr. Cole led Dead Moon in ragged, macabre-obsessed songs, like “Graveyard” and “Dead Moon Night,” that sounded as if 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 Toody Cole on bass the band included Andrew Loomis on drums.