To fans of garage punk music, Fred Cole is a legend - and deservedly so. Though he's been a veteran of the music scene for 40 years, and has played with numerous cult rock bands - Zipper and Dead Moon among them - '60's music afficianados still revere most the music Fred created with his earlier group - The Weeds / Lollipop Shoppe.
An Interview With Fred Cole
60sgaragebands.com (60s): How did you first get interested in music?
Fred Cole (FC): I was about ten years old and my mother bought Great Balls Of Fire. The song killed me and I became obsessed, jumping around in front of a mirror and screaming over the record player. I just wanted to be a screaming lead singer.
60s: Was The Weeds your first band?
FC: No, there were a lot of other things before that. The Baracudas was my first venture. I was about 13 and we were trying to copy the Beatles; they had just came out. I wanted to be Paul McCartney. I played bass and sang. Then I did a band called The Little Red Roosters, mostly Stones covers when they came out. I got a break and got into a band called The Lords which was making money. I played bass in that and sang about six songs. From that I became managed by Mike Tell and he started me in an all black band doing soul songs to be a white Stevie Wonder.
60s: Where was The Weeds formed, what year, and by whom?
FC: Hans Grebner from The Lords and I started The Weeds in early '65. He played organ and I played bass and we both sang. Toward the end of '65 we started changing members and dropped Hans and became the band that would evolve into The Lollipop Shoppe. This all happened in Las Vegas.
60s: Some sources list The Weeds as a Portland band, and others a Las Vegas band.
FC: We started in Vegas but in October '66 moved to Portland. Originally we'd planned to migrate to San Fransisco but were broke and things we'd lined up fell through.
60s: What kind of things?
FC: A disc jockey in Las Vegas lined us up to play the opener for The Yardbirds first tour at the Filmore. It's the reason why we left Las Vegas. We thought if we went to San Francisco and played with The Yardbirds we could get a deal with someone there and just start happening. When we got to the Filmore they said it was bullshit, we were never on the bill and told us to split. We were so disgusted and dissapppointed we headed for Vancouver but ran out of gas and money in Portland. That's why we ended up there.
60s: Who all comprised The Weeds?
FC: Ed Bowen - lead guitar; Ron Buzzell - rythmn guitar; Bob Atkins - bass guitar; Tim Rockson - drums; Fred Cole - vocals.
60s: Where did the band typically play?
FC: Mostly teen clubs and concert halls.
60s: Did The Weeds have a manager?
FC: Yes. Whitey Davis.
60s: How popular locally did The Weeds become?
FC: Pretty extreme for the time. We played every weekend, usually two different gigs a night and were still selling out most venues with 300-500 capacity.
60s: Where was The Weeds 45 (It's Your Time / Little Girl) recorded?
FC: We did that live at the Teenbeat Club in Las Vegas on a one-track recorder. I'm still amazed it came out okay.
60s: The Weeds also apparently recorded a 45 backing a guy named Charlie Whiteeagle...
FC: Oh yeah - he was a real character. He was kind of a joke and a lot older than us. He was always trying to get us to let him sing a song. The owners at the Teenbeat club thought it would be a riot to do the recording with him as a joke.
60s: Were you the band's primary songwriter?
FC: Ed and I wrote most of the songs. We'd flip coins to see what would get recorded.
60s: How did you hook up with Lord Tim Hudson?
FC: Whitey Davis sent us down to play the Ark in San Fransisco and to make connections in the spring of '67. We played all over the bay area and at one point decided to go to Los Angeles on our own and see what we could accomplish. We took a song called Reasons - an original - to Lord Tim to see if we could get a record out. He not only wanted to put the record out, he wanted to manage the band. We had to drop Whitey to do that and once we did he (Tim) changed our name.
60s: The Lollipop Shoppe was the exact same band as The Weeds, correct? There were no personnel changes at the time of the name change?
FC: No, we were the same band as (before) the name change.
60s: Did The Lollipop Shoppe play mainly in Los Angeles or in Portland?
FC: We actually played mostly in Portland, San Fransisco, Los Angles and Las Vegas. We were up and down the West Coast on a regular basis.
60s: Did you play the Sunset Strip at all?
FC: Yeah - every club there: Whiskey A-Go-Go, Gazarris, The Hullabalooo, The Cheetah, Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, and more.
60s: What were the circumstances leading to the recording of the Just Colour LP?
FC: Lord Tim got us a deal with UNI Records. We went in and recorded it in one day at Goldstar. Danielle pretty much arranged the songorder. Tim gave the final okay. They were married then.
60s: Did Danielle Hudson have any other involvement with the band?
FC: She was producing us and had this idea of orchestras and shit. She was a big fan of Charles Aznavour, some French singer who she used to hang with and that was her cup of tea - not ours. She was into a commercial pop sound and we just wanted to rock.
60s: Did the band and typically play songs from the LP when performing live, or did you still have to perform many covers?
FC: We played everything on the LP live and a few covers - but mostly originals.
60s: What do you think about the LP when listening to it today?
FC: I like it now better than I did then. We played those songs to death and it took a long time to be able to listen to them with unbiased ears.
60s: Do you have a favorite Lollipop Shoppe song?
FC: Baby Don't Go.
60s: The Lollipop Shoppe appeared for like two seconds in the flick ANGELS FROM HELL. Did you perhaps film a longer scene that was cut?
FC: We actually recorded and filmed two songs in the park. I was cut out because I was considered to have a speaking role since I was singing and the company did not want to pay the musicians and actors guild for what it would cost to show me. Crazy low budget (films).
60s: Apparently The Lollipop Shoppe also appeared in a 1968 TV special for The National Dairy Association. What do you recall about this?
FC: That was incredibly embarrassing because we had to do a song a 16-year old girl wrote whose father was the president of the National Dairy Association. The song was god awful. It was still good exposure.
60s: Do you by chance recall the title?
FC: Blow Out and it totally blew! I pray no one ever found a copy.
60s: What led to the band returning to Portland and reverting back to the name The Weeds?
FC: We were under a five-year contract with Lord Tim and Uni. We hated the direction they were leading us to which was a commercial bubble gum band. We split in the middle of the night and came back to Portland. We thought there would be lawsuits and bullshit but nothing ever happened so Ed and I decided to go back to using The Weeds in a trio. We had started it. It wasn't really The Weeds and after the recording we did we changed our name to Mule. We only played as The Weeds for three months or so. We became Mule and played around for about a year, early 1970.
60s: How do you best summarize your experiences with The Weeds / Lollipoppe Shoppe?
FC: It was a great time to be playing music: lots of venues and people were into live music bigtime.
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