by Jon Vogel
If you lived in Portland circa 1958 and watched cartoons on KOIN 6,
then you’re probably familiar with Rusty Nails, Heck Harper,
Addie Bobkins and Mr. Moon, hosts of morning kids’ shows.
Mr. Moon wore a long black robe, a white dome hat and, with the help
of some zany puppets, introduced Saturday morning cartoons. He predated
the most recent local, non-animated cartoon icon Ramblin’ Rod.
Not unlike Ramblin’ Rod, Mr. Moon appealed to young kids, playing
silly games and singing silly songs in between sets of Looney Tunes.
But this Mr. Moon is long gone. There’s only one Mr. Moon in
town these days and they can be found rocking the Spare Room in N.E.
Portland every Friday and Saturday night.
Located at 4830 N.E. 42nd Ave., The Spare Room is under new ownership;
with new managers come new goals and new attractions. The Spare Room
boasts of “entertainment seven nights a week for your listening
and dancing pleasure.” An electronic reader board scrolls through
weekly specials, including Monday night bingo from 7-9 p.m. and Karaoke
from 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m.; Tuesday night Texas Hold ‘Em tournaments;
ladies night on Wednesdays; Ed Neumann and taco specials on Thursday;
of course, Mr. Moon on Fridays and Saturdays; and Ed Neumann on Sundays.
In an attempt to draw a younger weekend crowd, the Spare Room signed
up Mr. Moon to fill their weekend slot; however, in their efforts to
appeal to younger bar-goers, the Spare Room in no way wants to expel
their current regulars. They do not want a new crowd; they want more
of a crowd.
The night this reviewer visited, the lounge was vibrant with activity.
True, Mr. Moon’s jamming sets had a lot to do with the fun atmosphere,
but the listeners have to be credited for seizing the moment and crowding
the large dance floor. From the second song on, through the night,
the dance floor was never empty as couples of nearly all ages shuffled
on and off the floor, twirling, turning and just plain rocking. Couples
mismatched in size, shape, age and dancing ability laughed as they
got down to Mr. Moon’s song-filled sets, which included Love
Potion #9, Lucky Man, Blue Suede Shoes and some originals.
Mr. Moon is comprised of Gip “L.A.” Hodges on drums, Jimmy
Carter on bass, Gary Perkins on guitar and Don McFadden on keys, harmonica
and most of the vocals. Their sound is difficult to pinpoint, lingering
between classic rock, rockabilly, blues and country. McFadden explains, “We
like to play Hank Williams Jr., Elvis, Keith Richards, John Lennon
and Paul McCartney, as well as lots of originals.” These artists
are often covered, but their songs take on a new sound when McFadden
smoothly slides his fingers up and down a soulful synthesizer and produces
vocals in all ranges, from a blaring falsetto to low, velvety deep
McFadden is no musical amateur. He played with a local rock group,
the legendary Jacob’s Ladder, for over 20 years and has played
music for over 40 years. In fact, a new book, Vortex One by Nat Love,
chronicles a 1970 Jacob’s Ladder concert that drew a Portland
crowd of over 70,000. Included in the book is an original recording
from that concert and a speech given by then mayor Tom McCall. McFadden
was also featured in the first edition of Positively Entertainment,
as well as the 20th anniversary edition.
However, to say McFadden is the backbone of Mr. Moon is wrong. Yes,
he plays upbeat organ riffs, dancing and bouncing during the show.
But Carter, Perkins and Hodges bring similar years of experience and
equal musical talents, giving Mr. Moon a well-rounded, versatile complexity.
Perkins blasts out moving guitar solos, while Hodges offers poppy vocals
on rock standards. Carter keeps the bass line alive while contributing
backup vocals. Together, the band produces beautiful four-part harmonies.
Mr. Moon is multifaceted, a necessary trait when performing such a
varied play list.
To learn more about Mr. Moon, visit their website at www.mrmoon.us,
where you’ll find information about upcoming shows. For the most
part, Mr. Moon travels the Oregon City circuit, playing at Dr. John’s,
Trails End Saloon, and the West Linn Saloon; however, with their new
weekly Spare Room gig, it’s possible to catch this fun band right
here in Portland.
It doesn’t matter if you are familiar with Mr. Moon circa 1958
because now there’s only one Mr. Moon in Portland. And after
a night at the Spare Room, you’ll agree – cartoons are
out and local rock is in.