I had heard bits and pieces of the legend of Fred and Toody. It came at me in strange ways like the bumper sticker at Mississippi Records that read Fred and Toody Not Fred and Carrie. I never heard their music and anything I read about them seemed only to cement their reputation deep in my subconscious. When I heard that Mississippi Records was hosting a movie about one of their bands, Dead Moon, at the Hollywood Theater I saw an opportunity to explore this phenomenon. The documentary Unknown Passage was shown on January 22nd followed by a performance by Fred and Toody. The movie screened to a sold out crowd. As I watched the legend became a real story about Fred’s beginnings in show business, his brief soul singing days as Deep Soul Cole and the bands he performed with in the 60’s that were eventually immortalized on the Nuggets garage band compilations. It may have taken Fred a while, but after years of being in and out of bands it occurred to him that the one person he could count on and get along with, his wife Toody, had the makings to be a good bandmate as well. So she became a bass player. She was also a great singer in their new wave band Rat, and I loved her singing on the choruses in the footage of Dead Moon playing their sludgy, bluesy rock. Unknown Passage has great show footage and captures the band traveling through Europe and dealing with the endless grind of touring.
I can’t recommend the movie enough. It looks like it’s available on the Dead Moon website. It gave me an appreciation of Fred and Toody’s humility and authenticity. Dead Moon drummer Andrew Loomis pointed out in the movie about how independent the band really was illustrated by scenes of Fred playing around with the lathe Toody bought him as he masters a record wearing his bathrobe. I didn’t fully understand the record recording process. I was thinking that what Fred was doing with the giant machine was making each of the band’s records by hand. But the band was doing most everything else from recording themselves to putting their recordings out on their own label—certainly as DIY as you can get. There’s the frugality to admire too. Fred talks about buying new used tires for the touring van after using the old ones years longer than he was told they’d last. Not to mention his building his house from scrap wood.
During the screening I saw my inner critic taking over. After ten to fifteen minutes I was telling myself that I didn’t think the movie was any good but that is was being screened for it’s historical virtues. It seemed disjointed starting with a trailer followed by a long performance and some random interviews. Then the movie faded out and the theater went dark. I’m pretty sure it was Eric Isaacson from Mississippi Records who made his way to the stage in front of the screen. He announced that they had made a mistake and started the screening with the DVD extras.Then it was on to the main feature. After the movie, Fred and Toody performed. I didn’t know the songs but they felt like familiar, down and dirty rock. Toody sang “Johnny’s Got a Gun,” followed by a song with a chorus that included the phrase “running out of time.” I had just watched Fred and Toody’s lives passing through time and could really feel that sense of everyone getting older but the song’s urgency and beauty hit home. Since I get up early, I usually don’t stay out late. I was cutting out of the show, but I made a point to run down both aisles to get close enough to get these fanboy fanzine-style performance photos from each angle and then I kept running, out of time and out of the theater to make my way home.
For more info and to order the film see: