Below in 1975
|Birth name||Frederick Below, Jr.|
|Born||September 6, 1926|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
|Died||August 13, 1988 (aged 61)|
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Frederick Below, Jr. (September 6, 1926 – August 13, 1988) 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. He was the drummer on Chuck Berry's song "Johnny B. Goode".
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 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, which didn't enable him doing much music ("I practiced on helmet liners, helmets, boxes and things like that").
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, an establishment he graduated in 1948, and in which he received a wide and thorough musical education.
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.
In 1955, Below left Little Walter's band to concentrate on working as a session musician for Chess Records. 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.
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.
|Artist||Song title||Date recorded||Highest position
on US pop chart
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||"Wang Dang Doodle"||1960|
With Howlin' Wolf
- Live and Cookin' (Chess, 1972)
With Roosevelt Sykes
- Feel Like Blowing My Horn (Delmark, 1970 )
With Sonny Boy Williamson
- The Real Folk Blues (Chess, 1947-64 )
- Eagle, Bob; LeBlanc, Eric S. (2013). Blues - A Regional Experience. Santa Barbara: Praeger Publishers. p. 67. ISBN 978-0313344237.
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues: From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books. p. 91. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Berry, Chuck, Chuck Berry: The Anthology, CD, 088 1120304-2, MCA Records, Chess, 2000, liner notes
- 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"
- 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"
- see Roy C. Knapp at the PAS Hall of Fame
- Fred Below Describes the Roy C. Knapp School of Percussion - part of a 1982 recorded interview with Fred Below
- Robert Palmer. Deep Blues. Penguin Books. p. 212. ISBN 978-0-14-006223-6.
- "Fred Below - Biography & History". AllMusic. Retrieved 4 February 2019.
- Santelli, Robert (2001). The Big Book of Blues. Penguin Books. p. 3. ISBN 0-14-100145-3.
- Fred Below — Magic Maker, an article of September 1983 by Scott K. Fish, which includes an in-depth interview with Fred Below, published in the Modern Drummer website (retrieved August 24, 2018)
- Recordings and transcripts of parts from some 1982 phone interviews with Fred Below, as published in Scott K. Fish's personal website