Sunday, October 15, 2006

Tejanobit: Freddy Fender

The country singer and Grammy winner Freddy Fender has been announced.

Born Baldemar Huerta, Fender left school at sixteen and became a marine, completing a three year tour of duty in 1953. Returning to Texas, he started a career as a jobbing musician, playing largely to a Latino audience and eventually recording Spanish language covers of Elvis Presley for sale south of the border.

The name change came in 1959, as he started to record in English - Fender, of course, after his guitar. A hit with Wasted Days and Wasted Nights seemed to be a breakthrough, but a drugs charge saw him thrown into a Louisiana jail. The governor who saw him released after two years of a sentence (for possession of a small amount cannabis) asked him to stay away from music while on probation, a promise that Fender kept. He returned to Texas, and found work as a mechanic.

His return to recording came in 1974, with the song that would be his trademark - Before The Next Teardrop Falls. Secret Love and You'll Lose A Good Thing followed, and Fender started to cross from the country to the pop charts.

With Doug Sahm, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Myers, Fender formed a "Tex Mex supergroup", the Texas Tornados; it was with this group that he would win a Grammy in 1990 for Best Mexican American Performance; the band effectively disbanded after Sahm's death in 1999.

Fender had his last years plagued with health problems - hepatitis C, a liver transplant (donated by his daughter) and, eventually, the cancer which would claim his life. He was 69.

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