Cleveland lost one of its most high-profile veteran musicians on April 8 when Bill Pettijohn succumbed to cancer. Pettijohn immersed himself in a Jim Morrison alter ego when he founded the Doors tribute band Moonlight Drive and hoped to star as the famed singer in film someday. He never did, but Pettijohn lived more than twice as long as his hero and packed several lifetimes of debauchery into his 62 years.
Pettijohn was a notorious hedonist with a love of mind-altering substances. Not surprisingly, the stories his friends told at his wake Sunday had as much to do with his enthusiastic pursuit of the rock-star lifestyle as with his genuine sweetness and good-heartedness.
The latter was epitomized by a legendary ad that Pettijohn placed in Scene in October, 1995.
Adorned with the Moonlight Drive logo and headlined with “HI … I’M BILL PETTIJOHN,” the ad continued:
“Many of you know me as the lead singer of Moonlight Drive,” it went on. “If you need a D.U.I. consultation, call Gregory M. Troyan, attorney at law. He got my ass off the hook. Therefore, I give my stamp of approval! I also got $$$ for my accident/injury case he handled for me.”
Troyan says he didn’t know what Pettijohn had planned to say in the ad before it ran. “He told me he had some ad space coming in Scene, and he was going to use it to do something to help both of us,” he says. “He always had an angle.”
The first time the ad appeared, both phone numbers listed for Troyan were incorrect. The second time the ad ran, Pettijohn used his own home phone number. “I think he thought he was going to screen clients for me,” says Troyan.
Pettijohn entered Cleveland’s music scene in the 1970s when he fronted Dragonwyck, which combined covers of Doors and Moody Blues tunes with originals. Dragonwyck recordings are still much sought after by collectors. Moonlight Drive was founded in 1980 with Dragonwyck guitarist Tom Brehm. At the time, the Doors’ music was enjoying renewed popularity and the tribute band concept was brand new, so Moonlight Drive quickly became a hot commodity.
Pettijohn later formed the Rolling Stones tribute band, Beggars Banquet, and kept both going simultaneously well into the 2000s. Moonlight Drive’s final performance was in 2008.—Anastasia Pantsios