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Freddy Fender, born as Baldemar Garza Huerta on June 4, 1937 in San Benito, Texas, was a Mexican-American Tejano, country and rock and roll musician and U.S. Marine.
Fender dropped out of high school at the age of 16 in 1953; 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 then discharged with rank of private. He later received a letter from the Department of the Navy saying that he had been wrongfully discharged dishonorably because of his drinking, and he was given a general discharge. He returned to Texas and played in nightclubs, bars, and honky-tonks throughout the south, mostly to Latino audiences.
In 1958, he legally changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender. Taking the name Fender from the guitar and amplifier company.
He is 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“.
In 2001, Fender made his final studio recording, a collection of classic Mexican boleros titled La Música de Baldemar Huerta that brought him a third Grammy award, this time in the category of Latin Pop Album.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Freddy appeared in TV and movies. He appeared as Tony in the prison movie Short Eyes, a 1977 film, directed by Robert M. Young. Freddy played the role of Pancho Villa in 1979’s She Came to the Valley (later released as Texas in Flames). The movie was directed by Albert Band and based on the book by Cleo Dawson. Fender also appeared as himself in an episode of the television series The Dukes of Hazzard, in 1981. In 1988, Freddy played the mayor in the Robert Redford–directed film The Milagro Beanfield War.
On March 13, 2001, Freddy Fender was erroneously reported to be dead by Billboard. He laughed off the magazine’s error. He underwent a kidney transplant in 2002 with a kidney donated by his daughter and then underwent a liver transplant in 2004. His condition continued to get worse and 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 on October 14, 2006 at the age of 69 of lung cancer at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, with his family at his bedside. He is buried in his hometown of San Benito.