Freddie Fender songs still come on the radio occasionally. I do not spend a lot of time listening to music like we did 30 years ago, but I still listen occasionally. I usually put the radio on FM and scan to see what pops up. Sometimes I scan for hours, never finding something I want to hear. Freddie Fender’s voice grabs my attention every time I hear him. I do not care if the recording is in English or Spanish, I enjoy listening to him – just a great sound and a beautiful voice.
Freddie Fender was born Baldemar Garza Huerta in San Benito, TX in 1937. He lived his early life in south Texas. He left high school at 16 and joined the Marine Corps at 17. He was thrown out of the Marines on a less than honorable discharge, which was later changed to honorable after alcoholism was reclassified as an illness. Later, he spent three years on a prison farm in Louisiana for drug charges. After that he returned to south Texas and worked as an auto mechanic.
He began singing to mostly Tejano audiences and recorded some popular songs in Spanish drawing little attention. He called himself El Bebop Kid for a few years. A few of the songs he recorded in Spanish were, Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel,” Harry Bellefonte’s “Jamaica Farewell” and Hank Williams’ “Cold, Cold Heart.”
Next he tried some rockabilly calling himself Eddie con los Shades, still with limited success.
In 1958 he changed his name to Freddie Fender. He chose Freddie to draw a gringo audience and Fender he got from his guitar. He moved to California looking for a new start and a recording contract.
In 1974 he finally hit it big with his first number 1 song on the Billboard country and pop chart with “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” That single went on to sell a million copies. His next successful song was a remake of a song he wrote himself and recorded earlier with little attention paid to it. “Wasted Days, Wasted Nights” became his second million selling single.
I owned his “Best of Freddie Fender” Album and it was one of my favorites in the 80’s. Songs included, were his two million sellers plus “Secret Love”, “You’ll Lose a Good Thing,” “Vaya con Dios,” “Sugar Coated Love,” “The Wild Side of Life,” “Since I Met You Baby,” “I Love My Rancho Grande” and a few others. This was one of the prizes of my record collection.
Freddie Fender joined two Tejano bands after his solo success. The Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven got record contracts. They won a few Grammys, but never had the monetary success Freddie Fender had as a solo artist.
Freddie Fender died of cancer in 2006, but the music is still around. For the rest of my life, I will stop and listen when and wherever I hear his voice. Its music to my ears.