Freddie Fender – Biography
Freddie Fender, full and real name Baldemar Garza Huerta, was born on June 4, 1937 in San Benito, Texas, United States. His father was a Mexican-immigrant named Serapio Huerta and mother was a Texan named Margarita Garza.
Freddie Fender’s musical career bean rather early at the age of ten when he made his first radio appearance on Harlingen’s KGBS-AM radio station KGBT, singing a current hit, “Paloma Querida”. Fender quit school at 16 and the following year, was enlisted for three years in the United States Marine Corps. His army career was cut short when he was court-martialed in August 1956 and was discharged.
Fender went back Texas and started playing in nightclubs, bars and honky-tonks throughout the south, mostly to Latino audiences. Somehow, along the way, he became known as the El Bebop Kid and in 1957, released 2 songs in Mexico and South America.
In 1958, he legally changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender. He took Fender from the guitar and amplifier, and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good and would “…sell better with Gringos!” He then went to California.
Freddie Fender’s first big break came with the blues ballad “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” in 1959. The song was a big hit but Fender got into trouble with the law when in May 1960 after he and a band member were arrested for possession of marijuana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He served 3 years before being released parole on condition that he stay away from places that served alcohol. Fender eventually returned to Texas where he worked as a mechanic, and attending a local junior college, while only playing music on the weekends.
In 1974, Fender recorded “Before the Next Teardrop Falls”. The single was selected for national distribution and became a number one hit on the Billboard Country and Pop charts. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. in May 1975.
His next three singles, “Secret Love”, “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” and a remake of “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights”, all reached number-one on the Billboard Country charts. Between 1975 and 1983, Fender charted 21 country hits, including “Since I Met You Baby”, “Vaya con Dios”, “Livin’ It Down”, and “The Rains Came”. “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” became Fender’s second million-selling single, with the gold disc presentation taking place in September 1975.
Freddie Fender’s health started deteriorating around 2000 and in 2002 he underwent a kidney transplant donated by his daughter. Then in 2004 he had a transplant of the liver.
He was suffering from an “incurable cancer” in which he had tumors on his lungs. On December 31, 2005, Fender performed his last concert and resumed chemotherapy.
He died in 2006 at the age of 69 of lung cancer at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, with his family at his bedside. He was buried in his hometown of San Benito.