October 14, 2006
(Corpus Christi, Texas) Freddy Fender, one of the most significant voices in Mexican American musical history, passed away today at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, surrounded by his family.
Funeral arrangements were not finalized at press time.
Born Baldemar G. Huerta on June 4, 1937 in the Mexican slums of San Benito, Texas, Fender's music took him on a "rags to riches" journey from the Rio Grande Valley. Overcoming career and cultural challenges, Fender's music has left a musical imprint on more than six decades.
Fender migrated north with his parents in the late '40's to work as a farm laborer in the upper Midwest. At 16, he dropped out of school to join the Marines.
He began his music career in the '50's, while still in his teens, billing himself as "El Be Bop Kid." By '58, he was cutting sides in Spanish, and finding success throughout Texas and Mexico. He switched styles to a more rockabilly feel, becoming Freddy Fender in '59 and breaking the wider "gringo" market.
His major breakthrough to international audiences came in 1974 when his recording of "Before The Next Teardrop Falls," topped both country and pop charts. He followed it with a gold record for "Wasted Days And Wasted Nights," and another cross over smash "Since I Met You Baby." Between 1975 and 1977, he had nine songs in the top 10 on the country charts. Fender is also credited with having written "Secret Love," which became a No. 1 hit for Doris Day.
Fender was named "Most Promising Male Vocalist" by the Academy of Country Music in 1975. The Country Music Association named "Before The Next Teardrop Falls" as Single of the Year that same year.
The beloved performer moved to yet another level in his career when he was tapped by Robert Redford to co-star in the film, "The Milagro Beanfield War." One year later, tapped fellow musicians Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm, and Flaco Jimenez to form the "dream band" of Tex-Mex music, The Texas Tornadoes, whose popularity moved Hispanic influenced music to worldwide attention and international audiences of the caliber of the Montreaux Jazz Festival, where Fender and his companions received more than a dozen standing ovations for their high-spirited ethnic influenced music.
Fender has continued to tour as a legendary icon whose audiences have shouted their approval in a multitude of languages. In recent years, health problems slowed him, but never silenced his music.
"Today is a sad day. The music industry and fans worldwide lost a friend and fellow musician. Freddy was a 'true' music icon. He will be missed dearly." -- former long-time publicist Kirt Webster, Webster & Associates Public Relations