Q&A: Is Freddy Fender Book Released?

Email received:
IS THE BOOK READY ? I DO WANT ONE .I KEEP TRYING TO GET PICTURES OF HIM RECEIVING HIS AWARDS ,BUT THERE SEEM S TO BE NONE ,I GET THE FEELING THEY BEGRUDGED THEM ,HE WAS GREATER THAN ALL THEM ,HE SANG FROM DEEP IN HIS HEART ,I AM THE SAME AGE AS HE ,I WISHED I COULD HAVE KNOWN HIM,WHEN I FIRST HEARD TESRDROPS ,IT GRIPPED MY HEART ,IT IS SO TOUCHING + NO ONES SINGS IT LIKE HIM .WAS THE LUMP ON HIS THROAT ,THE CAUSE OF HIS LUNG CANCER YOU THINK?

I HADNT EVEN HEARD HE HAD DIED UNTIL 2 YRS AGO OR LESS.HE WAS AN ALL AROUND SINGER “RE SAILS IN THE SUNSET”,HE ;S GOT IT ON THAT. PLEASE ANSWER ME BACK
OK ,I WROTE YOU BEFORE,

JOANNE


My reply:

Hi Joanne,

I’m not aware that a new book on Freddy Fender has been released. It’s quite possible but I just don’t know about it. I did a quick search on Google but didn’t see anything. If someone else has info on that maybe they can drop a link in the comments on this post.

I don’t feel Freddy was “begrudged”. I was one of his keyboardists from 1996-2005 and in just that time he received many awards including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. On that particular day we did a show afterwards at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, CA. Maybe you are referring to the early years but in the years I knew and worked with him he got a lot of attention, admiration and praise. All well deserved in my opinion.

I agree that “Teardrop” was always a moving experience when he performed it. When I played with him we would always close with “Before The Next Teardrop Falls” and then “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”. Teardrop was moving because we would start those first few notes of the signature intro and within a second or two the energy of the audience would always really pick up because many people were waiting the whole show to hear that song. I treasured every second that I played those songs with him knowing that someday it would be no more.

“Red Sails in the Sunset” was a little difficult for him to sing at the end. It was heart breaking to see him in the last years slowly degrade from the sickness. I would say really starting around 2003 or so. It was also inspirational to see that he kept performing even though it was difficult.

I really loved Freddy. He was always interesting. He would call me “El Blanco” (“The White”) because my skin was so white he thought it was funny. I always thought it was ironic too that a Norwegian Lutheran was playing Tex-Mex with a Hispanic artist.

Since you took the time to write I’ll share with you three little personal items that happened while I played with him. I think they are funny when I look back on them.

When I played keyboards with Freddy I would play the accordion parts on the keyboard to cover Flaco’s parts. Augie Meyer’s would play with us often but only played accordion on a few songs. At one point Augie was sick for a bit and not able to play with us so I thought this would be a great chance to start playing a real accordion. Augie had sold me an old accordion so I could practice a bit. The time came up and I played the accordion with Freddy live for a show. I really thought I did pretty good for a first attempt and that Freddy would love it. After the show the band and Freddy are on the airplane and one of the band members says “Hey Freddy, what did you think of Conrad’s accordion playing?”. Freddy looks out the window before takeoff and says “See that place out there” (pointing to the airport tarmac), “I think you should put the accordion out there!” The band got a kick out of that. And yes, that was the first and last time I played real accordion with Freddy.

Another time Freddy and the band were in our rented 10-person van going from one gig to the next. It was a long drive and I had fallen asleep. Incidentally, Freddy would rarely sleep on our long van drives. He was always up and listening to music, talking with the band, etc. I was always amazed at his tenacity and durability. So I guess while I was asleep there was some gas that passed. It was really toxic. Freddy woke me up and said “Next time you fart like that you’ll be doing it in the unemployment line!” As you might image, the band teased me about that for years.

And the third little personal thing I’ll share with you was one of the few times I had a meal with just Freddy and me. I think this was at the coffee shop in the Gold Coast casino in Las Vegas. I had gone down for lunch and Freddy was sitting alone. I said hi and he asked me to join him. That was a good thing because if you sit with Freddy he usually pays for the meal! I think this was around the year 2000. The conversation got a bit serious and personal. We started talking about his experience in Alcoholics Anonymous and religious beliefs. I was interested to know his beliefs in God. Freddy got very serious, his voice toned down and word for word this is what he told me: “I know there’s a God, and I know I’m not Him.”

I always remember that for myself too. It’s one of my treasures I received from Freddy.

After spending those years with Freddy and the band I have a lot of things I could write about that are negative. A lot of things I could spew about. But I just don’t want to. Life is short. Freddy was a great guy and the man that people saw on stage is overall the man that he was: simple, genuine, off the cuff and with the best of intentions.

I loved Freddy and still do. In his long career as a musician my 9 years with him was probably just a speck. And truth might be I was just another keyboardist musician in the long line of people that worked with him. But for me the experience was one that changed my views about so many things. I didn’t learn much about music working with Freddy but I learned a lot about life.

 

 

FREDDY FENDER BIOGRAPHY:

Freddy Fender has had three successful careers already-as a Hispanic/pop star in the late 50’s, a country pop star in the 70’s, and a member of the Grammy award-winning Texas Tornadoes in the 90’s. With his signing to Warner/Reprise, he begins a new chapter in an amazing career that spans nearly four decades.

Freddy Fender was born Baldemar Huerta in the Rio Grande Valley town of San Benito, Texas. He grew up in a barrio that, he is quick to point out, was not a crowded ghetto but just a poor Hispanic neighborhood. The first music he played was Tejano, conjunto, Tex-Mex- the rambunctious combination of polka (from the German settlers of Texas) and traditional Mexican music- he learned by watching and listening at weddings and other events in the neighborhood. In 1947, at the age of 10, he made his first appearance on radio, singing a current hit “Paloma Querida”, on KGBT in Harlingen, Texas. Another performance of “Paloma Querida” (literally translated “dove” and “loved one”) won him a tub of food worth about $10- first prize in an amateur talent contest at the Grand Theater in Harlingen.

At the same time, Fender was getting a first-hand education in the blues. His parents were migrant workers and he traveled with them during the picking season. Many of his fellow workers were black, and some of them, Fender remembers, were good enough singers and musicians to have been professionals. The blues music he heard in the fields would become an integral part of his own unique style.

At 16, he joined the Marines for a three year hitch. After his discharge, he started playing Texas honky tonks and dance halls. Two of his first records, Spanish versions of Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell” on Falcon Records went to Number One in Mexico and South America in 1957. In 1959, Hollywood called him — not to act but to sign to Imperial Records, the label of such greats as Fats Domino. In hopes of reaching the gringo audience, he changed his name, taking Fender from the headstock of his Electric guitar, and picking Freddy simply because it was alliterative.

In 1960, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” became a national hit, it also proved to be prophetic for Fender. Early stardom was stolen that year when he and his bass player were arrested and sent to prison for possession of two marijuana cigarettes. Three years later, Fender surfaced in New Orleans, where he spent the next five years further developing his interest in rhythm & blues and Cajun funk. By 1969, Fender had returned home to “The Valley”. He worked full time as a mechanic, enrolled at Del Mar College and played music only on weekends.

In 1974, he cut Before The Next Teardrop Falls” in Houston. The master was bought by ABC-Dot, and on April 8, 1975, it reached the Number One spot on Billboard’s pop and county charts, the first time in history an artist’s first single reached Number One on both charts. His remake of “Wasted Days And Wasted Nights,” essentially the same arrangement that had been considered rock and roll the first time around, followed “Teardrop. . ” to Number One on the country charts, and his third release, “Secret Love,” and fourth release “You’ll Lose A Good Thing” also hit the top spot. The album went multi-platinum. Billboard named him Best Male Artist of 1975, and he won both single and album-of the-year honors from The Gavin Report.

Fender’s broad appeal has been reinforced by his success with cinema and television projects, including the Hispanic classics “Short eyes” and ‘She Came To The Valley”, as well as his breakthrough performance in Robert Redford’s 1987 epic “Milagro Beanfield War”. His voice has also been tapped for successful national radio and television campaigns for McDonald’s, Miller Lite and others.

In the 90’s, Freddy Fender’s role as vocalist/guitarist in the Tex-Mex supergroup, Texas Tornados, has delivered the venerable performer to major marketplaces and audiences traditionally oriented toward roots rock and progressive blues music.

David Letterman recently introduced Fender to his Latenight audience as “one of the greatest voices in all of music.”

 

2 thoughts on “Q&A: Is Freddy Fender Book Released?

  1. that was an awesome story man…thanks for sharing. i always kind of felt like he took his last name from his guitar.

    and sent to prison for two mj cig’s? harsh…insanely harsh.

    loved the guys music since i was a kid

  2. The story goes he needed a stage name. He holding his guitar and looked at the headstock that said “Fender”, then added “Freddy” to it. Not sure the story is true like that – but it’s a good story anyway.

    I do remember one gig where a fan was so excited to meet Freddy Fender, the inventor of Fender guitars. I explained to the fan that Freddy didn’t invent Fender guitars; that was Leo Fender.

    I still remember the fan was SO bummed. He walked away like his whole world had crashed around him. He was so bummed.

    And yeah, jail time for two marijuana cigarettes in what, the late 50’s or early 60’s. Freddy used to joke that the same amount of marijuana in California nowadays is like a thirty dollar ticket.

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