Sunday, October 15, 2006
– Freddy Fender, a country music star, died Saturday at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, at 69 of cancer.
Fender was best known for his country hits "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."
Born Baldemar G. Huerta on June 4, 1937 in the Mexican slums of San Benito, Texas, Fender's music took him on a "rags to riches" journey from the Rio Grande Valley. Fender migrated north with his parents in the late 1940's to work as a farm laborer in the upper Midwest. At 16, he dropped out of school to join the Marines for 3 years.
He began his music career in the 1950's, while still in his teens, billing himself as "El Be Bop Kid." By 1958, he was cutting sides in Spanish and finding success throughout Texas and Mexico. He switched styles to a more Tex-Mex rockabilly feel, becoming Freddy Fender in 1959 and breaking into the wider popular market. He gained some success with "Holy One," an early version of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" and "Crazy, Crazy Baby."
But that success was derailed because he was arrested for posessing marijuana in Baton, Route, La. on May 13, 1960. He spent three years in Angola Station Prison, released in July 1963. He continued singing gigs after that, but could not get a recording contract.
By 1969, he was back in the San Benito Valley, working as a mechanic and playing music on weekends.
Friends suggested in 1974 he contact producer Huey Meaux, who owned the Crazy Cajun label in Houston. Fender soon cut "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," which became a local hit and was picked up by an ABC Records subsidiary for national distribution.
His major breakthrough to international audiences came when "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," topped both country and pop charts. He followed it with a gold record for "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights" and another cross over smash "Since I Met You Baby." Between 1975 and 1977, he had 9 songs in the top 10 on the country charts. Fender is also credited with having written "Secret Love," which became a number one hit for Doris Day.
Fender was named "Most Promising Male Vocalist" by the Academy of Country Music in 1975. The Country Music Association named "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" as single of the year that same year.
His recording career was not as successful by the early 1980's, as Fender suffered from substance abused problems. He was committed to treatment in 1985.
Fender later co-starred in the film, "The Milagro Beanfield War." One year later, tapped fellow musicians Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm, and Flaco Jimenez to form The Texas Tornados, who released several albums. "The Texas Tornados" album won a Grammy in 1990 for Best Mexican/American performance.