He was born in Arkansas, but moved to Compton, California. He first recorded while a student at Compton High School as a member of the Cymbals in 1962, and worked as a member of a band, the Creators.
Hughes was signed up for Vee-Jay Records by the label's A&R chief on the West Coast in the 1960s shortly before its demise, scoring hits in 1965 with the singles, "Oo Wee Baby, I Love You" (#3 R&B and #23 Pop) and "You Can't Take It Away" (another Top 20 R&B hit, #96 pop), written and produced by Parker. Released in Britain on the Fontana label, "OO Wee Baby" became a soul classic and was re-released in 1976 by DJM Records because of demand, according to the record's picture sleeve.
The singer's career struggled after his label's collapse, although he had a couple of Richard Parker-produced singles released on Exodus, run by Vee-Jay personnel briefly in 1966, and another two later on Chess Records.
In 1969, Hughes signed with another Chicago label, Brunswick Records and although failing to reach the pop charts, two releases for the label became R&B successes, "Baby Boy" at #25 and "I Understand" at #45. An album was later released by Brunswick featuring the two hits.
According to his blog, Fred Hughes is often confused with Freddie Hughes, an Oakland, California recording artist, and Castlemont High School graduate. The 1988 edition of Joel Whitburn's "Top R&B Singles" Billboard-based book lists releases by both artists together as if they were one artist, whilst AllMusic Guide's brief biography of Fred Hughes conflates the two artists, but it is worth noting that later editions of Whitburn's "Top Pop Singles" do separate the two artists, as of the 1994 edition.
Freddie Hughes recorded "Send My Baby Back", which was also a Top 20 R&B hit. On the strength of this hit, Wand Records released an album of the same name. Freddie Hughes recorded with several Oakland and Berkeley groups including the Melkeets, the Four Rivers, Music City Soul Brothers, the Casanova Two, and he shared a producer, Lonnie Hewitt, with the Ballads. He recorded "Send My Baby Back" on Lonnie Hewitt's Wee Records and when the record became popular, it was leased to Wand.
- Whitburn, J (1994)"Billboard Top Pop Singles" Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research
- Propes, S & Gart, G (2001)"L.A. R&B Vocal Groups 1945-1965" Milford, NH: Big Nickel Publ
- Biography, Allmusic.com
- Billboard Pop Singles, Allmusic.com
- Whitburn, J (1988)"Top R&B Singles 1942-1988" Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research
- "10 life-affiirmingNorthern soul tracks and the stories behind them". www.nme.com. Retrieved 11 January 2015.
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