Freddy Fender - Thankfully, the
(Baldemar G. Huerta -
agradecidamente, la leyenda continúa...)
By: Cheryl Harvey Hill, Sr. Staff Journalist
G. Huerta was born in south Texas border town of San Benito.
In 1958 he made up his stage name of Freddy Fender because he
thought it would help his music "sell better with
gringos." At various stages in his musical development he
was known as El Be-Bop Kid (1957), Eddie Medina (1961), and
Scotty Wayne (1962) before he finally settled on the stage
name of Freddy Fender. He took Fender from the neck of his
guitar and "Freddy just sounded good", he says.
that at the age of ten, his family "migrated north to
work beets in Michigan, pickles in Ohio, bale hay and pick
tomatoes in Indiana. When that was over came cotton picking
time in Arkansas. All we really had to look forward to was
making enough money to have a good Christmas back home, where
somehow I'd always manage to get my mother to buy me a guitar
if the old one was worn out."
At the age of
sixteen he dropped out of high school and joined the Marines
for three years. The mid-fifties found him back in San Benito
playing in bars and Chicano dances. In 1959 he had his first
hit with "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" but
circumstance, poor judgment and bad luck prevented him from
having another hit until the release of "Before the Next
Teardrop Falls" in 1974. In April of 1975, Teardrop
reached number one on Billboard's pop and
country charts so he re-recorded "Wasted Days and Wasted
Nights" which quickly became a hit all over again.
"Secret Love" and "You'll Lose A Good
Thing" became hits for him during that same time period
which led to Billboard naming him as their "Best Male
Artist of 1975" and the much respected Gavin Report
honored him with the "Best Single" and "Best
album," of the year. Finally, after twenty years; Freddy
Fender was an "over-night success".
The first time
I ever saw Fender in concert was in 1984 in Wuerzburg, Germany
when he came to the military base to do a concert for the
soldiers and their family members. There were a lot of local
nationals working in the fest tent that day and during his
performance two of the German waiters stood right behind our
table. It was obvious that they were fans since they
enthusiastically, and loudly, sang along on every song. When
the concert was over I was eager to ask them how they had come
to be fans of Freddy Fender.
the waiter who had been singing the loudest and who had known
the words to every single song. When I asked him how long he
had been a fan of Freddy's, his surprising response was,
"Es tut mir Leid, ich spreche kein English" which,
translates to "I'm sorry, I don't speak any
English." As it turns out, and as I eventually learned
myself after living in Germany for six years and attending
many fests where I learned to sing along with the band in
perfect German, despite the fact that I had no clue to what I
was actually singing, you don't have to understand even one
word of a song to appreciate wonderful music and the cadence
of melodious lyrics. This simple fact, no doubt, contributed
too much of Fender's earliest success when he sang mostly in
Spanish and it was always a treat later on in his career when
he sang in Spanish on the chorus of some of his biggest hits.
forward twenty years to August of 2005 at a popular venue in
Las Cruces, New Mexico. As he enters the side door and heads
towards the stage to join his band, everyone in the standing
room only audience is immediately standing. With little fan
fair, and an inaudible introduction that could not be heard
above the thundering applause and cat whistles, he begins
singing. I have no idea what song he sang first because, from
where I was standing (less than twenty feet from the stage),
the only thing I could hear was the nonstop cheering and
applause that echoed throughout the building and continued for
several minutes past the end of the first song and well into
the second. I remember thinking that this was an appropriate
reception for an artist who has clearly established himself as
a bona fide legend by the body of his work for nearly half a
century as a single artist and, in more recent years, as a
member of the award winning super groups Los Super 7 and the
Texas Tornados. Watching him perform, one thing was perfectly
clear; it was from the heart, talent and desire of Baldemar
Huerta that the musical pioneer we know as Freddy Fender was
born and continues to thrive.
I had been able
to talk with Freddy in the week before this concert and the
thing that impressed me most about him was his humility and
down-to-earth, relaxed sense of humor; not what you would
expect from a multiple Grammy Award, CMA, ACM recipient who
has a star on more than one "Walk of Fame"
(including in Hollywood) in addition to far too many awards
and accolades to mention here; several within the last few
years. He also has a street named after him in his hometown of
San Benito, Texas and they proudly display a fifty foot high
portrait of him at the top of a giant water tower which
proclaims that he is San Benito's favorite, and albeit most
beloved and famous, son.
When I tell him
that I first met him in Germany nearly twenty years ago, he
laughs and says that he remembers little of that time. He
admits to doing "just about everything in excess back
then and for much of his early life" then says,
lightheartedly, that it is probably better that he doesn't
remember. But that was then, when he was young and, like all
of us in our youth, fearless. He has come a long way since
then and the road of life, for him, has been a very bumpy one
with many twists, turns and steep hills to keep it interesting
Life has taught
him much and, he says, blessed him immensely. His devoted
wife, Vangie, has gone through it all with him and, he tells
me, that although her patience wore thin at times, her love
for him never waned. He credits her with nurturing his talent
and rescuing his spirit and he credits his daughter with,
literally, saving his life in 2001 when she donated one of her
kidney's to replace his which had been damaged "by years
of too much of a lot of bad things."
research for this feature I found many interesting bits of
trivia and all of them spoke to the diversity of his talents;
singing, songwriting and acting. I didn't realize that he had
written one of the biggest hits for the actress known in the
1950’s as "America's Sweetheart”, Doris Day. The song
was "Secret Love" and became a big hit for Fender
also in the mid seventies. Between 1975 and 1977, he had nine
songs in the top 10 on the country music charts and several
cross over hits on the pop charts. He has remained a radio
staple, around the world, ever since.
ago, he said that he would like to be officially recognized as
"The First American Hispanic and Hispanic Rock and Roll
Recording Artist in Anglo Latino Musical History." I'm
not certain what all the labels mean and I'm not sure if
Fender's music falls under Tejano, Tex-Mex, American Hispanic
or some other hybrid title, but I DO know what
"legend" means and I'm certain that it is a fitting
designation for the amazing artist that we've come to know as
the mega-talented Freddy Fender.
You will find a
very long list of "honors" that he has received, to
date, on his website at www.freddyfender.com.
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loved the songs on the album. They can't get much better. Freddy was one of a kind.
~ ciao Stan R.