Tuesday, 22 September 2009


The last time, or possibly the time before, that my Dad came out from the UK to visit us in Chile, he went home with about 25GB of my music on a shiny new hard drive. It's taken him a few months to get through it, and a bit like my co-blogging partner here on I Taught Myself How to Grow Old, he is working through the letters. He hit F, G and H the other day, and no doubt armed with a bottle of Chilean red, sat down and put faces to names with a zip through YouTube. It's a bit like the Rolling Stones selling the blues back to the US, as he's sending me the video links to the music I gave him. I have to admit, I had no idea what Freddy Fender looked like.

A quick zip through Fender's life and career is quite extraordinary, as he managed to be in a circus act at 5, get court martialed out of the Marines at 19, have a couple of hit singles as El Bebop Kid at 20, and be a rockabilly known as Eddie Con Los Shades. His real name was Baldemar Huerta, but he changed it to the more Gringo-friendly Freddy Fender.

Around 1959/60 Fender managed to have a hit with 'Wasted Days and Wasted Nights' although he was busted for possession of two spliffs in May 1960 and did three years jail time in the Louisiana State Penitentiary. By the end of the sixties he was in New Orleans, now soaking up the cajun influences to add to his latin, mexican, tex-mex, polka and country roots. He ended up working as a full time mechanic.

In 1974 Fender recorded and released 'Before the Next Teardrop Falls', which was an enormous country hit, and went on to re-record 'Wasted Days and Wasted Nights', which now sold a million. Not only had he crossed over, but managed to have Spanish language country hits. From there he never really looked back, and produced his 'swamp pop' in the late seventies (I love this quote "Although Freddy was a Chicano from Texas marketed as a country artist, much of his formative career was spent in South Louisiana; spiritually Fender's music was from the Louisiana swamps") and the Tex-Mex style Texas Tornados in the late 80's, with amongst others accordian player Flaco Jimenez. They even ended up playing President Clinton's inauguration bash.

The first time I came across Mr Fender was because of his involvement in Los Super Seven, another super group. David Hidalgo from Los Lobos was part of it, hence my interest. They won a Grammy in 1999 for it, and this time there were shades of Cuban, Peruvian and even Brazilian sounds.

You'd have to agree that's a hell of a career. Fender died in 2006.

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