Fred Below

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Fred Below
Fred Below.jpg
Below in 1975
Background information
Birth name Frederick Below, Jr.
Born (1926-09-06)September 6, 1926
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Died August 13, 1988(1988-08-13) (aged 61)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Genres Blues
Instruments Drums

Frederick Below, Jr. (September 6, 1926 – August 13, 1988)[1] was an American blues drummer, best known for his work 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 immortal song: "Johnny B. Goode".[3][4]


Below was born in Chicago and started playing drums in a high school jazz band. After being conscripted into the United States Army, he joined the 427th Army band, in which he played with Lester Young. After service in World War II, he 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.

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).[5]

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.[6]

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


Artist Song title Date recorded Highest position
on US charts
Highest position
on R&B charts
Muddy Waters I Just Want to Make Love to You April 13, 1954 #4
Muddy Waters I'm Your Hoochie Cooche Man 1954 #3
Muddy Waters I'm Ready September 1, 1954 #4
Little Walter "Mellow Down Easy" 1954
Little Walter My Babe January 25, 1955 #1
Willie Dixon "Walkin’ the Blues" Summer of 1955 #6
Howlin’ Wolf Spoonful 1960
Howlin’ Wolf Wang Dang Doodle 1960

Partial discography[edit]


  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. ^ Johnny B. Goode
  4. ^ Berry, Chuck, Chuck Berry: The Anthology, CD, 088 1120304-2, MCA Records, Chess, 2000, liner notes
  5. ^ Allmusic biography
  6. ^ Santelli, Robert (2001). The Big Book of Blues. Penguin Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-14-100145-3.