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Freddy Fender

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Freddy Fender
Freddy Fender in 1974
Freddy Fender in 1974
Background information
Birth nameBaldemar Garza Huerta
Also known as
  • El Bebop Kid
  • Scotty Wayne
Born(1937-06-04)June 4, 1937
San Benito, Texas, U.S.
DiedOctober 14, 2006(2006-10-14) (aged 69)
Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.
Years active1957–2005
Military Service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service1953–1956

Freddy Fender (born Baldemar Garza Huerta; June 4, 1937 – October 14, 2006)[1] was an American Tejano singer-songwriter, known for his work as a solo artist and in the groups Los Super Seven and the Texas Tornados. His signature sound fused country, rock, swamp pop and Tex-Mex styles.

Active since the 1950s, when he got his start playing Spanish-language rock and roll for Tejano audiences, Fender's mainstream breakthrough came in 1975 with the crossover hit "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," which topped Billboard's pop and country charts. He recorded further country hits such as "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," "Secret Love," "You'll Lose a Good Thing," "Living It Down," and "The Rains Came."

Early years[edit]

Fender was born in San Benito, Texas, United States,[2] to Margarita Garza and her Mexican husband, Serapio Huerta. He made his debut radio performance at age 10 on Harlingen, Texas, radio station KGBT, singing a then-hit "Paloma Querida."[3]

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.[3] He served time in the brig on several occasions because of his drinking, and he was court-martialed in August 1956 and discharged with the rank of private (E-1). According to Fender, he later received a letter from the Department of the Navy saying that he had been wrongfully discharged dishonorably because of alcoholism, and he was given a general discharge.[3] 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"[2] (as "No Seas Cruel") and Harry Belafonte's "Jamaica Farewell." He also recorded his own Spanish version of Hank Williams' "Cold, Cold Heart" under the title "Tu Frío Corazón" ("Your Cold Heart").

He became known for his rockabilly music and Eddie con los Shades persona. In 1958, he legally changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender.[2] He took the name Fender from the guitar and amplifier, and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good and would "sell better with Gringos!"[4] He then relocated to California.

Initial success[edit]

In 1959, Fender recorded the blues ballad "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."[2] His self-penned 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.[2] After serving nearly three years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, he was released through the intervention 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),[5] 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 Corpus Christi, Texas, working as a mechanic and attending local institution, Del Mar College,[2] while playing music only on the weekends.

Number one on pop and country charts[edit]

Freddy Fender performing in 1977

In 1974 Fender recorded "Before the Next Teardrop Falls."[2] 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 RIAA in May 1975.[6] 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 chart.[2] 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.[6]

Fender was also successful on the pop charts. Besides "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" reaching number one on the pop chart 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 chart.[citation needed]

At the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) Jukebox Awards in 1975, Fender was awarded "Artist of the Year" and "Record of the Year" for having the highest-earning songs played on jukebox machines in the United States.[7]

Swamp pop influences[edit]

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 such as Joe Barry and Rod Bernard and issued many recordings on labels owned by Huey P. 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."[8]

Later years[edit]

Texas Tornados[edit]

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. When the Texas Tornados went to audition for Warner Bros. Records, Fender did not think that the group was strong enough, so he brought his own band. The audition was nearly a bust, because he played country music and that was not what the executives were looking for. Fender was persuaded to play some vintage rock and blues numbers, which was what the executives were looking for, and was subsequently given a record contract. After being a solo act, Fender was not sure if signing with a group was a good thing, but according to Fender, he "just wanted to record for a major label."[9]

The group released four albums and won a Grammy Award 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.[10]

Los Super 7[edit]

In the late 1990s, Fender joined another supergroup, Los Super Seven, with Los Lobos' David Hidalgo and César 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.[10]

Later work[edit]

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. Joe 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."[10]

Death and legacy[edit]

On March 13, 2001, Fender was erroneously reported to be dead by Billboard. He laughed off the magazine's error.[11] 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.[citation needed]

On June 5, 2005, Fender was present for the dedication of a $1.4 million water tower in San Benito. The tower bears an image of Fender along with the words "San Benito Hometown of Freddy Fender," and is visible when driving east on U.S. Route 83 through San Benito.[12] On December 31, 2005, Fender performed his last concert and resumed chemotherapy.

He died on October 14, 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.[1]

He had said in a 2004 interview with the Associated Press that he wished to become the first Mexican American inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.[1]

A Freddy Fender Museum and The Conjunto Music Museum opened November 17, 2007, in San Benito. They share a building with the San Benito Historical Museum. His family maintains the Freddy Fender Scholarship Fund and donates to philanthropic causes that Fender supported.[citation needed]

Film credits[edit]

In 1988, Fender played the mayor of a small town in the Robert Redford–directed film, The Milagro Beanfield War.[2] He appeared as Tony in the prison movie, Short Eyes, a 1977 film adaptation, directed by Robert M. Young, of the Miguel Pinero play. Fender also played the role of Pancho Villa in 1979's She Came to the Valley (later released as Texas in Flames). The movie was directed by Albert Band and based on the book by Cleo Dawson. Fender appeared as himself in an episode of the television series, The Dukes of Hazzard.[citation needed]



Year Album Peak chart positions Certifications
1974 Before the Next Teardrop Falls 1 20 42 10 Gold Gold
1975 Recorded Inside Louisiana State Prison
Are You Ready for Freddy? 1 41 97 34
Since I Met You Baby 10 203
1976 Rock 'n' Country 3 59 98
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
1978 Swamp Gold 44
His Greatest Recordings
1979 Tex-MexA
The Texas Balladeer
1980 Together We Drifted Apart
1982 The Border Soundtrack
1991 The Freddy Fender Collection
Favorite Ballads
2001 Forever Gold 70
2002 La Música de Baldemar Huerta
  • ATex Mex peaked at No. 6 on the RPM Country Albums chart in Canada.[14]


Year Single Peak chart positions Certifications
(sales threshold)
US Country US
1960 "Holy One" 107
1975 "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" 1 1 19 1 6 18 2 1 Before the Next Teardrop Falls
"Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" 1 8 9 2 6 14 1 9
"Since I Met You Baby" 10 45 52 Since I Met You Baby
"Secret Love" 1 20 10 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 28 24 Rock 'N' Country
"Vaya con Dios" 7 59 41 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
"Squeeze Box" 61
1980 "My Special Prayer" 83
"Please Talk to My Heart" 82 Together We Drifted Apart
1983 "Chokin' Kind" 87
"—" denotes releases that did not chart

Honors and awards[edit]

Fender's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • 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
  • The Freddy Fender Water Tower in San Benito besides STEAM Academy (2009)
  • Texas Historical Marker – for contributions to Tejano, rock, and country music (2023)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Brezosky, Lynn (15 October 2006). "Tex-Mex Singer Freddy Fender Dies at 69". The Washington Post.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Colin Larkin, ed. (1992). The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (First ed.). Guinness Publishing. p. 851. ISBN 0-85112-939-0.
  3. ^ a b c Kasten, Roy (March–April 2002). "The Ballad of Baldemar Huerta". No Depression (38). Archived from the original on 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  4. ^ Harvey Hill, Cheryl. "Freddy Fender - Thankfully, the legend continues..." Countrystarsonline.com. Archived from the original on 2007-10-11. Retrieved 2020-02-10.
  5. ^ "Remembering Freddy Fender". NPR. Retrieved 2015-08-27.
  6. ^ a b Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. pp. 357–358. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ "Freddy Fender captures top JB awards, will play for MOA stage show". Play Meter. Vol. 1, no. 10. October 1975. p. 22. Retrieved 4 June 2021.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Hurst, J (July 19, 1991). ""Winds of Change" Chicago Tribune". newspaper.
  10. ^ a b c Tarradell, Mario. "Singer Freddy Fender dies at age 69", The Dallas Morning News, 15 October 2006.
  11. ^ Fernandez, Sara Lee (March 16, 2001). "Qué pasó: Despite magazine report, Fender's OK". CC Caller Times. Archived from the original on 2 May 2014. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  12. ^ "KGBT 4 Archives - Freddy Fender Water Tower Dedication (June 5, 2005)". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-12-22. Retrieved September 18, 2021.
  13. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 110. ISBN 0-646-11917-6.
  14. ^ "RPM Country 25 Albums". RPM. May 26, 1979. Retrieved September 29, 2015.
  15. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2011). Top Pop Singles 1955–2010. Record Research, Inc. p. 308. ISBN 978-0-89820-188-8.
  16. ^ Whitburn, Joel (1993). Top Adult Contemporary: 1961–1993. Record Research. p. 84.
  17. ^ "RIAA - Gold & Platinum - April 11, 2011: "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" certified awards". Recording Industry Association of America. Retrieved April 11, 2011.
  18. ^ "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.–170–71.
  • 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).

External links[edit]