Freddy Fender Facts

by

Arden Lambert

Updated

October 6, 2022

Updated

October 6, 2022

Updated

October 6, 2022

Freddy Fender is the embodiment of the American dream – from being a migrant worker coming from a small town to building himself as one of the most respected artists. With his twangy tenor and his pompadour haircut, Fender actually became one of the few Hispanic stars to have such an illustrious career in country music. He even became the first Mexican-American to cross over successfully to mainstream pop, effortlessly breaking the racial barrier.

Fascinatingly, Fender’s legacy in this musical genre has endured the test of time for generations. Check out below to find some facts about Fender. 

1. He’s a native of San Benito, Texas. 

Freddy Fender, whose real name was Baldemar Garza Huerta, was born on June 4, 1937, to a family of migrant laborers. Even Fender did his own share of picking crops. This also exposed Fender to the blues sung by blacks together with the Mexicans in the fields.

2. He renamed himself after his guitar. 

He went by the name Freddy because the alliteration sounded great to him while he took Fender from the popular guitar brand. Fender believed his chosen stage name had a stronger rockabilly feel that would attract more Gringos. He was previously known as El Bebop Kid.

3. He came to fame with his Spanish-language rock covers. 

Fender found fame playing at nightclubs, bars, and honky-tonks with Latino audiences. In 1957, two of Freddy Fender songs achieved moderate success. These are his Spanish version of Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” and Harry Belafonte’s “Jamaica Farewell.”

4. He was beset by legal troubles. 

While Fender’s rise to fame began in 1959, it came to a halt when he – along with his band member – was arrested and found guilty of marijuana possession. This landed Fender in Louisiana’s notorious Angola State Prison, where he was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

After serving three years, Fender was released through the efforts of Gov. Jimmie Davis – but on the condition that he stay away from the corruptive influences of the music scene.

5. He studied sociology at a community college. 

After his release, Fender spent many years working as an auto mechanic in Texas. He also went back to school and became a sociology major. Of course, Fender also tried to re-ignite his career by playing music on the weekends.

6. He’s a married man. 

In 1957, Fender married Evangelina Muniz. However, the couple divorced after Fender’s release from prison. But with life’s twists and turns, the two later remarried. Fender and Evangelina were blessed with five children.

7. He was marred by health problems during his later years. 

In 2002, Fender needed a kidney transplant using a kidney donated by his daughter Marla Huerta Garcia. Two years later, Fender underwent a liver transplant.

8. He was mistakenly reported to be dead. 

In 2001, Billboard magazine erroneously reported Fender to be dead – something the iconic singer laughed off. Sadly, his health became worse. 

He died of lung cancer at his home in Corpus Christi, Texas, in 2006. He was 69.

Truly, Freddy Fender is one colorful character. 


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