Photo I took from the stage while playing with Freddy Fender.
Sometimes people ask me how famous Freddy was. My mind flashes back to some of the shows – hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people all worked up to a frenzy. All ages in one room, spellbound by Freddy. Makes me smile.
SAN BENITO â€” How famous was Freddy Fender?
The varied collection of awards and accolades that he amassed in his lifetime and the popularity of his music worldwide are evidence that Fender was more than a regional source of pride.
While not necessarily the standard barometer of fame, Fender was deemed prominent enough to be spoofed on “Saturday Night Live,” a television show that normally caters to young viewers. Horatio Sanz, a regular player on “SNL,” did his impression of Fender in the “Derek Jeterâ€™s Taco Hole” skit on Dec. 1, 2001.
Fender actually made several television appearances, mostly as himself, on “The Tonight Show,” “American Bandstand,” the “Dukes of Hazzard,” “Hee Haw” and “Austin City Limits,” among others.
More recently, Fenderâ€™s “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” was included in the soundtrack for “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada,” a film by Tommy Lee Jones in which the main characters form a friendship, in part, due to their mutual appreciation for Fenderâ€™s song.
From 1975 to 2002, Fender was nominated for five Grammy Awards in six different categories, winning once for “Best Latin Pop” (“La Musica de Baldemar Huerta” in 2002) and twice for “Best Mexican/American Performance,” (for “Los Super Seven” in 1999 and “Texas Tornados” in 1990).
In San Benito, his birthplace, city leaders dedicated an elevated water storage tank bearing his likeness on June 4, 2005, Fenderâ€™s 67th birthday. In anticipation of the event, Fender acknowledged his supporters in a statement posted on his official Web site, www.freddyfender.com:
“God has embraced me many times when I was most in need of him,” he wrote. “Thank you many times friends and fans from all over the world for all your prayers, dedication and loyalty. See you in San Benito for the lighting of the H20 tower.”
In 2005, music distributor Direct Source replaced Thomas Jeffersonâ€™s face on Mount Rushmore with Fenderâ€™s on its “Rancho Grande” compilation of the singerâ€™s music. Fender was widely lauded abroad as well as in his homeland in more serious ways. According to Fenderâ€™s Web site, he was inducted into the European Walk of Fame in 1993. In 1999 he got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
He was also inducted into various music halls of fame in Louisiana, Texas and others around the globe.
As part of its farewell to the 20th century in 2000, the Orange County Register placed Fender 18th on its list of “Most Important Latin Artists of the Century.”
According to his Web site, Fender performed at inaugural balls for Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton and Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Among the “career performances” also listed on Fenderâ€™s site are playing for President Jimmy Carter at the White House and performances at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, at Wrigley Field during Chicago Cubs games in 1981 and 1986, at Carnegie Hall and at the Macyâ€™s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1975.
The Internet has proved to be a significant role player in keeping Fenderâ€™s legacy alive. Most of Fenders albums are widely available online, with sale and auction listings for new and used copies of his compact discs posted on such Web sites as E-bay.com, Amazon.com, Overstock.com and Wal-Mart.com.
In some cases, individual songs or entire albums can be downloaded directly onto personal computers and MP3 players. Several of Fenderâ€™s songs can even be used as ring tones for mobile phones. Online purveyors of Fenderâ€™s songs hawk them in English and Spanish as well as in German, Dutch and Chinese, among other languages.
His fans were as varied as his last concert appearances, which included shows in Wisconsin, Washington, New Mexico, Oklahoma, California, Arizona and Nevada, according to his online calendar.
Fender resided in Corpus Christi, but he spent his last days as a musician on the road â€” mainly outside Texas. His last scheduled performances were listed as a private party in Houston on Dec. 3 and a concert at Stevenâ€™s Steakhouse in Commerce on Dec. 31 of last year. But his old bandmates Augie Myers and Charlie Rich, Jr. had to substitute.
The failure of Fenderâ€™s Web site administrator to update the calendar section prompted numerous messages from visitors for more information on Fenderâ€™s performances and prognosis.
Many of his fans incorporated his lyrics into their messages to the singer. One such entry was left by Judy Damato of Branford, Conn., who recently wondered publicly about Fenderâ€™s health in a message on the singerâ€™s online guestbook.
“Please, whoever updates this site, is Freddy alright? I see no bookings on his calendar,” she wrote on Feb. 20. “Is he back in the hospital? Please at least let his fans know that he is OK. No one could ever take his place.
“He must be a kind, loving person to be able to touch so many hearts of people heâ€™s never met,” she continued. “Please give us an update on what he is doing or how heâ€™s doing; and could you do it before the next teardrop falls?”
Valley Morning Star