Both Fred Below and Odie Payne studied at the Roy Knapp School of Percussion in Chicago, so they were both "schooled" drummers (incidentally, Hal Blaine studied at this school as well, probably around the same time).Here is a conversation I had with a very good friend, Dave Myers, on Fred Below. Dave was the Aces guitar / bass player. -
Fred Below was a military educated drummer. That could mean formally a drummer in the military or learned from a military trained drummer while in the service. Im leaning toward the latter. When he returned to Chicago in 1951, it was Dave and Lewis that picked him up first, forming the Aces. In the early days of Belows development as a Chicago blues drummer, his style wasnt so quick to catch on. That military rigid style took some time to soften up. Lil Walter told Dave that Below wasnt gonna work out. Dave would reply "hold on for just a little while longer". If you watch Below play, he remained "stiff" however put enough grease in it to make it work. So in part your right, it was the guitarists, Dave and Lewis that brought Below along. Whats important to know is that The Myers brothers were educated musicians, as was Below. Together they worked it out. Side note, Dave Myers played the first electric bass in the city of Chicago, that being one of the first electric basses to be played publicly. (see Bass Player magazine, the one with Bootsy on the cover) That wasnt well received at first either, but when it was, along with Belows playing, the club scene went crazy for that sound.
As for the jazz influence. Little Walter couldnt stay out of the jazz clubs in Chicago, he loved that sound.
I recorded with Dave Myers on an Earwig Records release - Rob Stone & the C - Notes Just My Luck - 2003 Earwig Music Company Inc. He was a very close personal friend.
About a year ago I got an Aces album called Chicago Beat. It's got some great playing by Below, and since it was recorded in the 70's, the recording quality is a bit better than on his classic 50's and 60's recordings: