After graduating from DuSable High School, Fred Below joined the Army in 1945, returned to the Windy City in ’46 and attended the famed Roy Knapp School Of Percussion, and re-enlisted in 1948. Returning to Chicago in 1951, Below began playing with blues ex-Muddy Waters harmonica player Little Walter, guitarist Louis Myers, and Louis’s bother David on bass, who as the Aces became one of the most important electric blues bands in Chicago.
In the mid-’50s Below became a staff drummer at Chess Records, where he recorded hundreds of classic sides with artists including Elmore James, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Etta James, and Bo Diddley. He also backed early rock shows put together by legendary promoter Alan Freed.
Below’s magic touch can be heard on Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” Bo Diddley’s self-titled signature song, and the Moonglows’ “Sincerely.” In 1967 Below toured Africa with Junior Wells for the State Department, which he later described to Modern Drummer as the most exhilarating experience he ever had. “I was in drumming country,” Below recalled, “and I had my eyes, ears, and fingers all ready to learn any kind of thing I could pick up.” Fred Below died in 1988.
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