Freddy Fender, the most talented singer of Tejano music, mesmerized a full house September 21 at the Yuba College Campus Theater.The enraptured audience took to the floor, dancing to such great hits as “Tell it Like it is,” and “Before the Next Teardrop Falls.” It was Saturday Night Live with Freddy Fender, and if you weren’t there, you missed out on the heartfelt hits of country and Spanish rock. After five decades of giving his music to the world, Freddy Fender, at 65 years of age, still reflects the Oldies but Goodies mystique of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s; music that just gets better.
Freddy expressed his great sense of humor when he made reference on stage to being the father of Hispanic Rock and Roll. He simply stated, “I’ve never lived in Mexico,” inferring that his music was purely American. His Tex-Mex style lyrics transcend multi-national barriers that are accredited with initiating a wonderful cultural change in music. The lyrics characterize memorable “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” that will always be remembered.
He was born to a poor but romantic family who lived in San Benito, Texas, a tiny town in the Rio Grande Valley. While still a child, Freddy was a farm laborer, but he had already made his first appearance on radio, singing a current hit “Paloma Querida” on KGBT in Harlingen, Texas. He also won a tub of food, worth about $10, as first prize in an amateur talent contest at the Grand Theater in Harlingen. It was, however, the long hours he spent working with his family and with fellow workers in the fields that gave him the time he needed to think and dream about music. Often, it was the blues music he heard sung by black workers that helped him get through the days and nights.Freddy teamed up with three other Texas roots legends to form the Texas Tornados, Augie Myers, Doug Sahm, and Flaco Jimenez. The Texas Tornados released three albums between 1990 and 1992 for Reprise Records, “Texas Tornados,” “Zone of Our Town,” and “Hangin’ on by a Thread.” Reprise also released “Texas Tornados” in South America. Critics love the Texas Tornados for their classic mix of Country, Rock and Tejano.
Presidential performances, European tours, music videos, and soundtracks followed release of their Reprise albums. Today the Texas Tornadoes are an on-again, off-again project, but there is, and always will be only one Freddy Fender.