Fred Grady

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Some of the real Chicago blues old-timers, such as Buddy Guy or even Muddy Waters, might have noticed Fred Grady as a somewhat towering and beefy teenager obsessed with the all-night jam sessions at the…
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Artist Biography by

Some of the real Chicago blues old-timers, such as Buddy Guy or even Muddy Waters, might have noticed Fred Grady as a somewhat towering and beefy teenager obsessed with the all-night jam sessions at the infamous Checkerboard Lounge. Eventually Grady became a bluesman himself, perhaps one of the most important entities in the electric-combo version of the genre: the drummer.

He began playing on pots and pans as an infant, and was still living in the same South Side

home when a traffic accident removed him from the world of shuffles, boogies, and slow blues. After graduating from high school, the pots and pans long since replaced by a real drum kit, he followed trades that are considered more secure. Grady was a carpenter and a barber. He also began going on the road in his late teens with various groups that were booked into hotel lounge circuits.

T.H.E.M., formed in 1972, bridged the gap between the by-now traditional Chicago blues sound and new funk innovations. For Grady there could have been no better way of being part of this process than to drum for this band. The decision to join the group also meant he was now playing in many of Chicago's best blues clubs, not hotel lounges.

Naturally this high profile led to jobs with leaders such as Guy, Otis Clay, John Lee Hooker, and Eddy Clearwater. In the early '80s, Grady became a member of the Jimmy Johnson Blues Band, which toured throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Two members of the group lost their lives in a 1988 car crash that in hindsight was a prediction of the drummer's own death more than a decade later. He was recalled in obituaries as having been drumming busily right up until then, a good deal of his time spent hustling around Chicago on an unfortunately not-endless round of freelance work.