Wilfred Middlebrooks, the double bassist whose elegant, understated sound was heard in the band that backed jazz great Ella Fitzgerald and in the Paul Smith Trio, earned a reputation with musicians as an unflappable timekeeper, whose mastery of the instrument allowed him to be heard as well as felt, but not obtrusively. Wilfred's longevity with somebody of Ella's talent had a lot to do with his impeccable intonation, sensitivity and just sympathetic nature.
Middlebrooks was born July 17, 1933, in Chattanooga, Tenn., into a family of musicians. By age 11, Middlebrooks was studying with the principal bassist for the Chattanooga Symphony. At age 15, Middlebrooks joined a traveling vaudeville troupe. In Ohio, he began a friendship with saxophonist and group leader Tab Smith. Tab took him under his arm and taught him how to accompany singers and how to blend in as a musician,Tab was like a father to the young Willie.