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|Birth name||Baldemar Garza Huerta|
|Also known as||El Bebop Kid
June 4, 1937|
San Benito, Texas, United States
|Died||October 15, 2006
Corpus Christi, Texas, United States
|Genres||Tejano, country, rock, Swamp pop|
|Labels||MCA, ABC, Arista, Reprise|
|Associated acts||Los Super Seven
Freddy Fender (4 June 1937–14 October 2006), born Baldemar Garza Huerta in San Benito, Texas, United States, was a Mexican American Tejano, country and rock and roll musician, known for his work as a solo artist and in the groups Los Super Seven and the Texas Tornados. He is best known for his 1975 hits “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and the subsequent remake of his own “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.”
Fender was born to Texas-born Margarita (Garza) Huerta and her Mexican immigrant husband Serapio Huerta. He made his first radio appearance at age 10 on Harlingen’s KGBT-AM radio station, singing a then hit, “Paloma Querida.”
Fender dropped out of high school at age 16 in 1953, and when he turned 17, he enlisted for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served time in the brig on several occasions because of his drinking, and he was court martialed in August 1956 and discharged with rank of private (E-1). According to Fender, he later received a letter from the U.S. Department of the Navy saying that he had been wrongfully discharged dishonorably because of alcoholism, and he was given a general discharge. He returned to Texas and played nightclubs, bars, and honky-tonks throughout the south, mostly to Latino audiences. In 1957, then known as El Bebop Kid, he released two songs to moderate success in Mexico and South America: Spanish-language versions of Elvis Presley’s “Don't Be Cruel” (as “No Seas Cruel”) and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.” He also recorded his own Spanish version of Hank Williams’s “Cold Cold Heart” under the title “Tu Frio Corazon.”
He became known for his rockabilly music and his cool persona as Eddie Con Los Shades. In 1958 he legally changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender. He took Fender from the guitar and amplifier, and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good and would “sell better with Gringos!” He then went to California.
In 1959 Fender recorded the blues ballad “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.” The song was a hit, but he was beset by legal troubles in May 1960 after he and a band member were arrested for possession of marijuana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After serving nearly three years in the Angola prison farm, he was released through the intercession of then-governor Jimmie Davis, also a songwriter and musician. Davis requested that Fender stay away from music while on probation as a condition of his release. However, in a 1990 NPR interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (rebroadcast October 17, 2006), Fender said that the condition for parole was to stay away from places that served alcohol.
By the end of the 1960s, Fender was back in Texas working as a mechanic, and attending a local junior college, while playing music only on the weekends.
Number one on pop and country charts
In 1974 Fender recorded “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” The single was selected for national distribution and became a number one hit on the Billboard Country and Pop charts. It sold over a million copies and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1975. His next three singles, “Secret Love,” "You'll Lose a Good Thing" and a remake of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights", all reached number-one on the Billboard Country charts. Between 1975 and 1983, Fender charted 21 country hits, including “Since I Met You Baby,” “Vaya con Dios,” “Livin’ It Down,” and “The Rains Came.” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” became Fender’s second million-selling single, with the gold disc presentation taking place in September 1975.
Fender also was successful on the pop charts. Besides “Before the Next Teardrop Falls" reaching number 1 on the pop charts in May 1975, "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights" went into the pop top 10 and "Secret Love" into the top 20. "Since I Met You Baby", "You'll Lose A Good Thing" (his last pop top 40), "Vaya con Dios", and "Livin' It Down" (his last to reach the pop top 100) all did well on the pop charts.
While notable for his genre-crossing appeal, several of Fender’s hits featured verses or choruses in Spanish. Bilingual songs seldom hit the pop charts, and when they did it was because of novelty. Bilingual songs reaching the country charts was even more unusual.
Swamp pop influences
Fender was heavily influenced by the swamp pop sound from southern Louisiana and southeast Texas, as is shown by his recording swamp pop standards on his 1978 album Swamp Gold. One of his major hits, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” has a typical swamp pop ballad arrangement. Fender associated with swamp pop musicians like Paul C. Saenz, Joe Barry, and Rod Bernard, and issued many recordings on labels owned by Huey Meaux, a Cajun who specialized in swamp pop. As music writer John Broven observed, “Although Freddy was a Chicano from Texas marketed as a country artist, much of his formative career was spent in South Louisiana; spiritually Fender’s music was from the Louisiana swamps.”
In 1989 Fender teamed up with fellow Tex–Mex musicians Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, and Augie Meyers to form the Texas Tornados, whose work meshed conjunto, Tejano, R&B, country, and blues to wide acclaim. The group released four albums and won a Grammy in 1990 for Best Mexican American Performance for the track “Soy de San Luis.” Fender described the group in this way: “You've heard of New Kids on the Block? Well, we’re the Old Guys in the Street.” Following the death of Sahm, the Tornados’ production slowed. A live 1990 appearance on TV’s Austin City Limits, one of three the group made, was released in 2005 as part of the Live From Austin, Texas, series.
Los Super 7
In the late 1990s Fender joined another supergroup, Los Super Seven, with Los Lobos’ David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas, Flaco Jiménez, Ruben Ramos, Joe Ely, and country singer Rick Trevino. The group won a 1998 Grammy in the Mexican American Performance category for their self-titled disc.
In 2001 Fender made his final studio recording, a collection of classic Mexican boleros titled La Música de Baldemar Huerta that brought him a third Grammy award, this time in the category of Latin Pop Album. Rose Reyes, who worked with Fender in 2004 for a Texas Folklife and Austin tribute titled “Fifty Years of Freddy Fender,” said of the album, “When he did Mexican standards at that point in his career, I expected it to be good because he's a perfectionist. But that record is so beautifully recorded; his voice is perfection. I was so proud it was coming back to his roots.”
Death and legacy
On 13 March 2001 Freddy Fender was erroneously reported to be dead by Billboard Magazine. He laughed off the magazine’s error. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2002 with a kidney donated by his daughter and underwent a liver transplant in 2004. Nonetheless, his condition continued to worsen. He was suffering from an “incurable cancer” in which he had tumors on his lungs. On 31 December 2005, Fender performed his last concert and resumed chemotherapy.
He died in 2006 at the age of 69 of lung cancer at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, with his family at his bedside. He was buried in his hometown of San Benito.
International news coverage of the death cited an oft-expressed wish by the singer to become the first Mexican American inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, with reporters noting that posthumous induction remains a possibility.
A Freddy Fender Museum and The Conjunto Music Museum opened 17 November 2007 in San Benito. They share a building with The San Benito Historical Museum. His family is committed to continue the Freddy Fender Scholarship Fund and other philanthropic causes that the musician was passionate about.
In 1988 Fender played the mayor of a small New Mexico town in the Robert Redford–directed film The Milagro Beanfield War. Fender also appeared as Tony in the prison movie Short Eyes, a 1977 film adaptation, directed by Robert M. Young, of the Miguel Pinero play.
Freddie Fender also appeared in an episode of The Dukes of Hazzard as a guest star.
|Year||Album||Peak chart positions||Certifications|
|1974||Before the Next Teardrop Falls||1||20||10||Gold||Gold|
|1975||Recorded Inside Louisiana State Prison||—||—||—||—||—|
|Are You Ready for Freddy?||1||41||34||—||—|
|Since I Met You Baby||10||203||—||—||—|
|1976||Rock 'N' Country||3||59||—||—||—|
|Your Cheatin' Heart||—||—||—||—||—|
|If You're Ever in Texas||4||170||—||—||—|
|1977||The Best of Freddy Fender||4||155||—||—||—|
|If You Don't Love Me||34||—||—||—||—|
|Merry Christmas / Feliz Navidad||—||—||—||—||—|
|His Greatest Recordings||—||—||—||—||—|
|The Texas Balladeer||—||—||—||—||—|
|1980||Together We Drifted Apart||—||—||—||—||—|
|1982||The Border Soundtrack||—||—||—||—||—|
|1991||The Freddy Fender Collection||—||—||—||—||—|
|2002||La Musica de Baldemar Huerta||—||—||—||—||—|
- ATex Mex peaked at No. 6 on the RPM Country Albums chart in Canada.
|Year||Single||Peak chart positions||Certifications
|CAN Country||CAN||CAN AC||NZ||AUS|
|1975||"Before the Next Teardrop Falls"||1||1||1||6||18||2||1||Before the Next Teardrop Falls|
|"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights"||1||8||2||6||14||1||9||
|"Since I Met You Baby"||10||45||—||52||—||—||—||Since I Met You Baby|
|"Secret Love"||1||20||1||38||7||10||33||Are You Ready for Freddy?|
|1976||"The Wild Side of Life"||13||—||—||—||—||—||—||Since I Met You Baby|
|"You'll Lose a Good Thing"||1||32||—||—||—||24||—||Rock 'N' Country|
|"Vaya con Dios"||7||59||1||—||48||—||—|
|"Living It Down"||2||72||1||—||—||—||—||If You're Ever in Texas|
|1977||"The Rains Came"||4||—||1||—||—||—||—||Rock 'N' Country|
|"If You Don't Love Me
(Why Don't You Just Leave Me Alone)"
|11||—||16||—||—||—||—||If You Don't Love Me|
|"Think About Me"||18||—||10||—||—||—||—|
|1978||"If You're Looking for a Fool"||34||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Talk to Me"||13||103||10||—||—||—||—||Swamp Gold|
|"I'm Leaving It All Up to You"||26||—||20||—||—||—||—|
|1979||"Walking Piece of Heaven"||22||—||13||—||—||—||—||Tex-Mex|
|"Yours"||22||—||23||—||—||—||—||The Texas Balladeer|
|1980||"My Special Prayer"||83||—||—||—||—||—||—|
|"Please Talk to My Heart"||82||—||—||—||—||—||—||Together We Drifted Apart|
|"—" denotes releases that did not chart|
- Academy of Country Music (1975) - "Most Promising Male Vocalist"
- Country Music Association (1975) - "Single of the Year" for "Before the Next Teardrop Falls"
- Grammy nominations in 1975, 1976, and 1997
- Tejano Music Hall of Fame (1987)
- Inaugural Balls - Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush
- Grammy Award for Best Mexican/Mexican-American Album (1990) - for the Texas Tornados
- European Walk of Fame (1993) - in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
- Freddy Fender Lane (1994) - dedicated in his hometown of San Benito, Texas
- Hollywood Walk of Fame (1999)
- Texas Music Hall Of Fame (1999)
- Nashville Sidewalk of Stars (1999)
- Grammy Award "Best Mexican/American Performance" (1999) - for Los Super Seven
- Louisiana Hall Of Fame (2001)
- Grammy Award "Best Latin Pop" (2002) - for La Musica de Baldemar Huerta
- Annual Freddy Fender Humanitarian Award
- Kasten, Roy (2002, March/April). "The Ballad of Baldemar Huerta." No Depression, 38.
- Freddy Fender
- NPR: Remembering Freddy Fender
- Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 357–358. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
- John Broven, South to Louisiana: The Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican, 1983), pp. 281-82. See also Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996), 64-65.
- Tarradell, Mario. "Singer Freddy Fender dies at age 69", The Dallas Morning News, 15 October 2006.
- Fernandez, Sara Lee (March 16, 2001). "Qué pasó: Despite magazine report, Fender's OK". CC Caller Times. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
- Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 308. ISBN 0-89820-188-8.
- "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - April 11, 2011: "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" certified awards". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
- "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - April 11, 2011: "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" certified awards". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
- Tucker, Stephen R. (1998). "Freddy Fender". In The Encyclopedia of Country Music. Paul Kingsbury, Editor. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 170–1.
- John Broven, South to Louisiana: Music of the Cajun Bayous (Gretna, La.: Pelican Press, 1983).
- Shane K. Bernard, Swamp Pop: Cajun and Creole Rhythm and Blues (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1996).
- Official website
- Freddy Fender Museum
- "Remembering Freddy", National Public Radio, Fresh Air with Terry Gross, October 17, 2006. A remembrance of Fender and his music with other links.
- Freddy Fender at Find A Grave