Freddy Fender (4 June 1937 – 14 October 2006), born Baldemar Garza Huerta in San Benito, Texas, United States, was an American Tejano, country and rock and roll musician, known for his work as a solo artist and in the groups Los Super Seven and the Texas Tornados. He is best known for his 1975 hits "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" and the subsequent remake of his own "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights."
Fender was born to Margarita (Garza) Huerta and her Mexican immigrant husband Serapio Huerta. He made his first radio appearance at age 10 on Harlingen's KGBT-AM radio station, singing a then hit, "Paloma Querida."
Fender dropped out of high school at age 16 in 1953, and when he turned 17, he enlisted for three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served time in the brig on several occasions because of his drinking, and he was court martialed in August 1956 and discharged with rank of private (E-1). According to Fender, he later received a letter from the U.S. Department of the Navy saying that he had been wrongfully discharged dishonorably because of alcoholism, and he was given a general discharge. He returned to Texas and played nightclubs, bars, and honky-tonks throughout the south, mostly to Latino audiences. In 1957, then known as El Bebop Kid, he released two songs to moderate success in Mexico and South America: Spanish-language versions of Elvis Presley's "Don't Be Cruel" (as "No Seas Cruel") and Harry Belafonte's "Jamaica Farewell." He also recorded his own Spanish version of Hank Williams's "Cold Cold Heart" under the title "Tu Frio Corazon."
He became known for his rockabilly music and his cool persona as Eddie Con Los Shades. 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.
n 1959 Fender recorded the blues ballad "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights." The song was a hit, but he was beset by legal troubles in May 1960 after he and a band member were arrested for possession of marijuana in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. After serving nearly three years in the Angola prison farm, he was released through the intercession of then-governor Jimmie Davis, also a songwriter and musician. Davis requested that Fender stay away from music while on probation as a condition of his release. However, in a 1990 NPR interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross (rebroadcast October 17, 2006), Fender said that the condition for parole was to stay away from places that served alcohol.
By the end of the 1960s, Fender was back in Texas working as a mechanic, and attending a local junior college, while playing music only on the weekends.
On 13 March 2001 Freddy Fender was erroneously reported to be dead by Billboard Magazine. He laughed off the magazine's error. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2002 with a kidney donated by his daughter and underwent a liver transplant in 2004. Nonetheless, his condition continued to worsen. He was suffering from an "incurable cancer" in which he had tumors on his lungs. On 31 December 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.
International news coverage of the death cited an oft-expressed wish by the singer to become the first Mexican American inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, with reporters noting that posthumous induction remains a possibility.
A Freddy Fender Museum and The Conjunto Music Museum opened 17 November 2007 in San Benito. They share a building with The San Benito Historical Museum. His family is committed to continue the Freddy Fender Scholarship Fund and other philanthropic causes about which the musician was passionate.