Jeffrey Frederick & the Clamtones

What Made My Hamburger Disappear

Jane E. Herrold 

Hipfish, 2001                                                

Flashback to coastal Astoria, Oregon, 1970s!

The era inspires me still.  I learned to trust myself as an artist, to appreciate live music, fun and friends. We were rock 'n roll road warriors on the dance floor of Astoria's Uppertown Pub and Grub.

We frequented Portland's rock haunts; Purple Earth, Euphoria, Rock Creek Tavern, and the recently resurrected White Eagle and Crystal Ballroom.  My musical heroes of the 1970s were local and accessible:

Holy Modal Rounders, Clamtones, UPEPO, Sleazy Pieces, Phil and the Blank Spots, Fly By Night Jazz Band.

Many of these musicians endured, rising to nostalgic cult status.  Oh, if only I had taken better notes!

Jeffrey Frederick was a significant contributor to my perennial favorite "desert island" LP,  "Have Moicy!" (re-released on CD--Rounder Records), featuring the Clamtones, UNholy Modal Rounders, and folk champion Michael Hurley, prevails to this day as "driving music."  This album along with Frederick's "Spiders in the Moonlight," was my sound track for the hippest-hippie era I knew and loved.

Vividly, I recall the "tall dark and handsome," silky-voiced eccentric showman, Jeffrey Frederick.  Memories swirl around long, joyous evenings, shredded vintage dresses, delectable local fishermen, and rockin'-fun lyrics. "What Made My Hamburger Disappear?"  "All I ever get is beer shits for my tremendous investment."  "Lord! Lord! Lord! Have you ever blown bubbles underwater when you're feelin' down?"  "I played the guitar on the toilet too long."  Bassist, Dave Reisch claims, "Jeffrey could take something as mundane as a pencil and write a song about it."

Jeffrey Sutton Frederick, the driving King Clam of the popular bar band, the Clamtones, is playing in the Angel Band (d. 1997).  His legacy still larger than life, as he continues to bring adoring fans to dancing feet via Portland's Freak Mountain Ramblers. (Laurelthirst Tavern, Portland, OR, Sundays 6-8 PM. The faithful call it "Church.")

 In 1976, swept along by a westward flow of the whacky Holy Modal Rounders, Jeff moved to Oregon.  When quizzed about his solo journey via Canadian National Railway, the maestro mused, "I wasn't alone.  Because before I left I cooked a turkey.  When I got on the gosh darned train, I had more friends than anybody, because nobody else had any food up there in lowclass.  I had a big hunk of cheese and two cans of beer and a bunch of Jack Daniels whiskey."

(Jack Gallagher:  Clinton St. Quarterly)   

 

 

 

 

How can one not adore a trouble-making-vintage-cowboy-shirt-clad crooner who could pen a memorable musical yarn about seemingly non-lyrical topics such as taking a crap, a red newt, or a charming babe named "Rotten Lettuce Sue?"

Tall, handsome, mysterious, considerate, charismatic, brilliant bad boy -- that was Jeffrey. Jeffrey was a commanding entertainer; everyone's best friend, and the life of the party. He wanted everyone to have fun, and we delighted in his infectious energy.

"Jeff's story has everything a good book requires; laughter, tears, love, intrigue, colour, and lots more laughter. He was a dichotomy," reminisces widow, Kathryn. "The most interesting person I have ever known. For all his flamboyance, he was a very private person. He was also a genius. He worked to hide that, but he couldn't hide it from me." Ask anyone who crossed paths with this charismatic outlaw and hear a case-load of outrageous, colorful stories about Jeffrey Frederick's antics. Heard the one about his false teeth hidden in the nachos? Or how he backed an old car up to the Laurelthirst Tavern after being 86'd, only to gun the accelerator, filling the place with exhaust? Or the pink tutu and cowboy boot costume he so favored? Hoping to entice him into sharing a stage, Eric Clapton once chased Jeffrey down the street. Many tell of him dancing naked around the fire at an all night wedding reception.

Jeffrey owned a horse. Jeffrey had a metal plate in his head. Jeffrey liked to go to church so he could sing out. In contrast to his creativity and joy in life, Jeffrey drank too much. Like so many talented musicians of the time, hard living took the ultimate toll. Jeffrey was and still is an enigma.

Let us toast a drumstick to a veritable "One-and-Only" and, while we're at it, to a frolicking in our lovely 40s frocks with big handsome men!

I still like to rock and roll

-never mind the toll!

We miss you Jeffrey Frederick.

Long live the memories.

 

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