The King of Tex-Mex
Freddy Fender is known by many as The King of Tex-Mex. He has one of the greatest pure singing voices you'll ever hear. His phrasing, command of pitch, nuance, and just plain soulfulness are legendary.
I owe Freddy a lot.
After my father passed away, he became almost like a second father to me. He helped me through some really hard times. He taught me a lot about life and how to be a man. How to face up to the problems life has handed you and confront them head-on. How to be more honest than you even thought you could be. He is tough as nails, but with a heart of gold. Some of my favorite times were when Freddy and I would drive to a gig in a rental car. It would be just Freddy and me. He would play CDs of traditional Spanish songs and interpret for me. It was great because my command of the Spanish language is limited to say the least. He was so passionate about the lyrics, and he would go on about how "in Spanish" the lyrics often cut like a knife. I can honestly say, I don't think there has ever been a Gringo that loved Spanish music more than yours truly. I got that from Freddy. It's beautiful stuff and very heavy.
I suppose it was destiny that allowed me to play with Freddy. It's funny because years earlier I missed a chance to meet him. It was back in 1976. My father and I were staying at the Sportsman's Lodge in North Hollywood, California. My father was down at the bar with Freddy. He called me to come down and meet Fred. By the time I made it downstairs to the bar, Freddy had already left and I missed the chance to meet him. I do remember my father saying how much he respected Freddy.
A few years later, a friend of mine named Bob Furgo was in a nightclub where I was playing. I was doing the typical five sets a night for fifty dollars. It's an L.A. thing. Anyway, Bob asked if I would be interested in filling in for him on a two week road gig. I asked him what it was, and he said "Freddy Fender". Well, I ended up doing the gig. Little did I know that those two weeks would turn into nearly twenty years. I ended up being Freddy's band leader, traveling around the world, playing with The Texas Tornados, and even produced a Christmas album on him. It was a wonderful experience, and I will forever be indebted to him for it.
He "IS" a contender.
I always used to tell Freddy that he should have been a boxer. Even at sixty plus years he has more stamina and energy than anyone in the band. It's not even close. It's not an accident that he won his last Grammy Award at a young sixty-two years of age. He just plows on, always with an eye to the future. He has overcome life threatening illnesses, survived mulitple organ transplants, and endured personal hardships, including the loss of his beloved mother and son within a week of each other. Freddy is one of those rare people that HAS to play. He truly loves his fans and his fans love him. There's no pretense with Fred. What you see is what you get. He's honest to a fault.
The greatest gift.
On a personal note, I met the love of my life, Teresa, in large part due to Freddy. It was on Freddy Fender Day in San Benito, Texas. Freddy was supposed to sing with Teresa's niece. She had won a contest in a local newspaper, and her wish was to sing with Freddy Fender. Well, Freddy was recovering from a cold, and asked me if I would fill in. He said he would be lucky to make it through the show. So, I became the hero. I went over the song with Teresa's niece, and she did a great job. Freddy, always the hero, came out and finished the song with her. Perfect timing and a wonderful surprise. It was very cool.
Teri and I became pen-pals, and as they say: the rest is history.
A living legend.
Freddy has been an inspiration to many people. He paved the way for many of today's young Hispanic artists coming up. He's left an indelible mark on country music, and he taught a young fellow from Arkansas how to play a Cumbia and love it. He and his wife Vangie have always treated me with love and kindness. I value their friendship immeasurably. We've weathered some storms together, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. Freddy just continues to get better. His last album was his very best and won him a Grammy. I can't wait to see what he does next. I love the guy. He's golden in my book.
Still more stuff...
- Being taken seriously.
- How my father became a star.
- So, you wanna' be a country star?
- Who do you like better, Garth or Gershwin?
- You'll eat what you're served...
- The Media: Out with the old, in with the new.
- It's great exposure.
Thoughts on some of the people I've played with or known.
- Charlie Rich
- Freddy Fender
- Smokey Robinson
- Jo-El Sonnier
- Randy Meisner
- Billy Swan
- Flaco Jimenez
- Augie Meyers
- Doug Sahm
- Jerry Lee Lewis
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