Saturday, October 14, 2006

Freddy Fender R.I.P.

Legendary Tex-Mex singer Freddy Fender died today in Corpus Christi at age 69. Fender had suffered from a battery of health problems in recent years. He was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer in January.

Born Baldemar Huerta in San Benito, Fender enjoyed success in the Rio Grande Valley as a regional rock and roller in the late Fifties and early Sixties. After serving three years in Louisiana's Angola State Prison for marijuana possession, he left the music business to become an auto mechanic.

Doug Sahm led a rediscovery of Fender in the mid-Seventies, bringing him to Austin's Soap Creek Saloon. Huey Meaux signed Fender and persuaded him to cut "Before the Next Teardrop Falls," which topped the pop and country charts in 1975. A new version of "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" also topped the country charts and was a top ten pop hit.

In the Nineties, Fender, Sahm, Flaco Jimenez and Augie Meyers became the Texas Tornados, enjoying yet another round of popular success with the Tex-Mex sound. I saw them at the Texas Union Ballroom in 1992. It was a great show that was chock full of hits.

Fender's long career and wide-ranging appeal made him a natural for commercials. He will almost surely go down in history as the only man to do commercials for both the Texas Department of State Health Services (for its hepatitis C awareness campaign) and Pancho's Mexican Buffet.

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