As a kid in New York Fred enjoyed everything from early rock and roll to show tunes. He remembers listening to cast albums of Oklahoma, South Pacific and West Side Story. He loved Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue and pretended to conduct the orchestra in front of the record player. In retrospect, Fred notes that it was very beneficial to have loved different kinds of music before he became involved with the guitar. ?That way,? he states, ?the musical palette before me was larger than had I first discovered the guitar and started listening to just guitarists. I knew there was a bigger picture.?
From age 12, Fred played clarinet and was in various junior high school bands and orchestras. As a teenager Fred attended New York's High School of Performing Arts as a drama major. But he remembers many times listening to the school's orchestra and being amazed at the high level of proficiency exhibited by his classmates in the music department.
He didn't start the guitar until college, where he was an English major at Boston University, originally planning on becoming a writer. Learning chords from friends who were heavily into blues and folk guitar, he soon became obsessed with the instrument.
? When I became serious about the guitar,? Fred remembers, ?which was almost immediately after I picked one up at college, I thought back to my high school musician friends and realized I had a lot of work ahead of me. For a long time I imagined most guitar players were ahead of me and that I was playing catch up. It made me work all the harder.?
His introduction to jazz guitar came when he bought Kenny Burrell and Wes Montgomery albums. After hearing Wes, he knew what he wanted to do. But he cites many musicians as influences. Among guitarists he mentions Wes, Johnny Smith, Jim Hall, Pat Martino, George Benson, Kenny Burrell, Lenny Breau, Ted Greene and of course, George Van Eps.