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Fred Below
Below in 1975
Below in 1975
Background information
Birth nameFrederick Below, Jr.
Born(1926-09-06)September 6, 1926
Chicago, Illinois, United States
DiedAugust 13, 1988(1988-08-13) (aged 61)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Blues
Instrument(s) Drums

Frederick Below, Jr. (September 6, 1926 – August 13, 1988) [1] was an American blues drummer who work led with Little Walter and Chess Records in the 1950s. According to Tony Russell, Below was a creator of much of the rhythmic structure of Chicago blues, especially its backbeat. [2] He was the drummer on Chuck Berry's song " Johnny B. Goode". [3] He also recorded with J. B. Lenoir. [4]


Below was born in Chicago, and as he put it - "grew up around nothing but music". He started learning music and playing drums in the DuSable High School [5] and at about the age of 14, formed a sort of a jazz band with two of his high school friends, Johnny Griffin and Eugene Wright.

As a young man, Below served in the Army twice. The first time between 1945 - 1946, after being conscripted into the United States Army, he served in the infantry ("I practiced on helmet liners, helmets, boxes and things like that"). [6]

In 1946, When he was discharged from his service and came back home to Chicago, Below attended the reputable Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion, [7] an establishment he graduated in 1948, and in which he received a wide and thorough musical education. [8]

Below re-enlisted the army in 1948, this time as part of the Special Services, and he served in Germany as a member of the 427th Army band. After that second service, he stayed and played in a nightclub in Germany before returning to the United States in 1951.

Back in Chicago, Below joined the Aces, a band comprising the guitar-playing brothers Louis and Dave Myers and the harmonica player Junior Wells. In 1952, Little Walter left the Muddy Waters band to pursue a solo career, Wells took over his role on harp in the Muddy Waters band, and Walter commandeered the Aces (the Myers brothers and Below). As Little Walter and the Nightcats, they became one of the top electric blues bands in Chicago. [9]

In 1955, Below left Little Walter's band to concentrate on working as a session musician for Chess Records. [2] However, he continued to play on Little Walter's records. He also played on hit records for Waters, Wells, Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Jimmy Rogers, Elmore James, Otis Rush, Howlin' Wolf and others. [2]

Below worked with bassist Willie Dixon, Little Walter, and guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. on John Brim's last single for Chess, "I Would Hate to See You Go" (1956). [10]

Among his more famous work, he played on Chuck Berry's 1957 hit single " School Days" as well as on other Berry recording including " Brown Eyed Handsome Man" (1956), " Roll Over Beethoven" (1956), " Too Much Monkey Business" (1956), the calypso flavored, "Havana Moon" (1956), " Rock and Roll Music" (1957), " Sweet Little Sixteen" (1957), " Reelin' and Rockin'" (1957), " Guitar Boogie" (1957), " Memphis, Tennessee" (1958), "Sweet Little Rock and Roller" (1958), " Little Queenie" (1958), " Almost Grown" (1959), " Back in the U.S.A." (1959) and " Let It Rock" (1959).

Below rejoined the Myers brothers for a tour of Europe in 1970. [11]

Below died of liver cancer on August 13, 1988, in Chicago, at the age of 61. [1]

Partial discography

Artist Song title Date recorded Highest position
on US pop chart
Highest position
on R&B chart
Muddy Waters " I Just Want to Make Love to You" April 13, 1954 No. 4
Muddy Waters " I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man" 1954 No. 3
Muddy Waters " I'm Ready" September 1, 1954 No. 4
Little Walter "Mellow Down Easy" 1954
Little Walter " My Babe" January 25, 1955 No. 1
Willie Dixon "Walkin' the Blues" 1955 No. 6
Howlin' Wolf " Spoonful" 1960
Howlin' Wolf " Wang Dang Doodle" 1960

With Howlin' Wolf

With Roosevelt Sykes

With Sonny Boy Williamson


  1. ^ a b Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 67. ISBN  978-0313344237.
  2. ^ a b c Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 91. ISBN  1-85868-255-X.
  3. ^ Berry, Chuck, Chuck Berry: The Anthology, CD, 088 1120304-2, MCA Records, Chess, 2000, liner notes
  4. ^
  5. ^ and was one of the students of the "star maker", Captain Walter Henri Dyett."DuSable High School had one of the best teachers. That was Capt. Walter Dye(tt). That's where I learned my music"
  6. ^ Though he recalled that while serving at Fort McClellan, Alabama, before he was sent to the South Pacific, he "...saw Tommy Potter the bass player, and then Prez Lester Young... (and) had an opportunity to sit in and play with them"
  7. ^ see Roy C. Knapp at the PAS Hall of Fame
  8. ^ Fred Below Describes the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion - part of a 1982 recorded interview with Fred Below
  9. ^ Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p.  212. ISBN  978-0-14-006223-6.
  10. ^ "Fred Below - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved February 4, 2019.
  11. ^ Santelli, Robert (2001). The Big Book of Blues. Penguin Books. p. 3. ISBN  0-14-100145-3.

External links