Breaking News
More () »

Mi Gente: Looking back on the life of Freddy Fender

In an interview, Fender often spoke of how his interest in music got its start while working in the fields.

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Freddy Fender is a famous singer and songwriter, and in this week's edition of Mi Gente, 3News Anchor Rudy Trevino got to speak with his daughter, Tammy Lorraine Huerta-Fender, about the Freddy that not many really knew.

"I am Tammy Lorraine Huerta-Fender, the daughter of the late rock and country singer, Baldemar Huerta, AKA Freddy Fender," Tammy said.

Tammy has authored two biographies she calls works of love to set the story straight about her famous father.

What's widely known is that Baldemar Garza Huerta was born in 1937 in San Benito, a Valley town of about 10,000 people in South Texas. He produced memorable hits like "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights," first written back in 1959. That song had just made it to the charts when Fender was arrested in Louisiana for possession of marijuana.

"My father could have been famous at the age of 23, but because he was taken off the stage in Baton Rouge, La.," Tammy said. "They had the Napoleon code. You're guilty before finding you innocent."

Tammy said her father was sentenced to five years in Louisiana's Angola Prison, which got him off the charts and delayed his music career.

"And so Freddy could have been famous then, and not until 20 years later did he get famous again with that song," Tammy said. "But there's a lot of raw. The book is raw. It's a little shocking."

Shocking because of the many trials and tribulations the singer endured, mostly brought on by himself; and that, says Tammy, is what her father wanted shared with the world.

"My father wanted me to tell you what was significant in his life. The painful things he went through. The bad things with his drug addictions. The dark side," Tammy said. "He wanted you not to just know the good side of some boy that got lucky in San Benito, Texas, and he made it really big you know. He wanted you to know what, who he was."

As with most Texas-Tejano natives, life as a migrant worker was extremely difficult. In an interview, Fender often spoke of how his interest in music got its start while working in the fields. He said, "at night I would hear the music and sneak out onto the street and see these little fireflies of light, which were the cigarettes in the hands of the players (the musicos), and that was where it was happening."

Fender added, "these were just home guys – they picked cotton or whatever and then they'd come home and play the hell out of those old songs."

Tammy said while he was learning musica ranchera, he was also embracing the blues while working alongside African Americans in the fields. The blues, she said, became part of his own musical style.

"You know Freddy was a like a black man inside. Very soulful. And that's why he's R&B. He was really R&B," Tammy said. "He just got famous by default with country, you know, rock and country."

In both books, Tammy traces her dad's footsteps -- the winding road, the ups and downs.

"I do his professional life, music, but I'm really telling you what's happening in the backdrop. His personal life, and that's what people don't know. And we, and we lived private lives, so we never told anyone, and this is the first time," Tammy said. "And I do have my mothers interviews and my family's, and the biggest agencies in the world that his agents and producers. They're all in there."

Toward the latter half of his life, Freddy Fender was diagnosed with kidney failure due to diabetes. Doctors told him he'd need a transplant.

"But because of his drug abuse, he also had Hepatitis C. He found that out and then he was having cirrhosis of the liver even though he had giving up drinking for, ah at the time, 17-18 years," Tammy said. "He passed away with 21 years of sobriety."

Tammy's sister Marla donated a kidney.

3News Anchor Rudy Trevino had the honor of interviewing Fender 10 years before he passed away on his syndicated radio show, Tejano Gold Countdown, during which he asked him how he would like to be remembered.

"I want to be remembered as somebody that came in 30 years before his time, because I believe that is what happened," Fender said. "It's difficult being a pioneer because a pioneer isn't appreciated until he's gone, after many years. Like Van Gogh. He never sold a painting while he was alive."

Freddy said he started singing when Hispanics weren't accepted among general market audiences, and for that he felt blessed. He passed away Oct. 14, 2006, at the age of 69, leaving this last part of his interview to sum things up.

"What is important to me is the opportunity to look back at my life and appreciate all that's happened," Fender said. "It would make for a very interesting movie, considering I've been every type of person. I was a prisoner. I was a Marine in the service. I've been a mechanic, a welder, a liar. I've lived without money and with money. I've lived without my wife and with my wife, and well now I am a grandfather. What an adventure I've had!"

More from 3News on KIIITV.com:

Before You Leave, Check This Out