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Freddy Boy

Friends, admirers, and Texas musicians such as Augie Meyers and Ray Benson say good-bye to music legend and San Benito’s favorite son, Freddy Fender, who died October 14, 2006.

By December 2006Comments

As Told To Brian D. Sweany
When I served on the San Antonio City Council in the late seventies, Freddy Fender came to a meeting to receive an honorary award. It was a particularly contentious time for the council, and he quipped that he had the perfect theme song for our deliberations. And the song, of course, was “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights.” As he stood at the podium, he sang the opening bars a cappella—and just broke the place up.

As Told To Katy Vine
Me and Freddy were in St. Louis a few years back. This woman about seventy years old came up and said, “I know who y’all are! I won’t shout out your name, but I just love you. I have all your records.” Freddy said, “Oh, thank you.” She said, “The one I play all the time is ‘Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.’ Will you give me your autograph Willie?” Freddy looked at me and I looked at him. I didn’t say anything. Then she looked at me and said, “And I want yours too, Waylon.” I said, “What’s your name?” She said, “Martha.” So I wrote, “Martha—love you, Waylon.” Waylon was already dead, you know, but I just wanted to make her happy. Then I handed the pen to Freddy and he asked, “How do you spell ‘Willie’?”

As Told To David A. Herron
He had the song “How Much Is That Dog in the Window.” Years later he was doing a tour overseas somewhere, and in the contract it was written that he had to agree to not perform that song. In all his years, he said, he had never had anyone ask him to not play a song before. Freddy thought that was really funny.

As Told To David A. Herron
After “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” was a big hit, my band Asleep at the Wheel was playing a show with him in Fort Worth at the Hilton. And I got off the elevator and there’s Freddy. I said “Hey man, how you doing?” And he said, “Man, I gotta go get something to eat.” I said, “There’s food here.” The coffee shop at the Hilton had quiche and regular fare like that. He said “Nah, man. They haven’t got any chili.” So we walked down the street to the Greyhound bus station in downtown Fort Worth and got two cans of chili out of the vending machine. He was great. He was the most down-to-earth guy.

As Told To Christopher Danzig
Right now I have an unreleased Texas Tornados recording we did in the studio last year with Shawn Sahm singing Doug’s parts. He was singing great. But I could tell he didn’t feel well. There’s one tune by Freddy called, “If I Can Only,” that was sung in the triplet style that he was known for, and there’s one silly song. It’s called “They Don’t Make ’Em Like I Like ’Em Anymore.” That was Freddy, he always did novelty songs. He was a great balladeer singer and very humble for someone who was as famous as he was. He always made sure that every band member was individually introduced onstage. And the people just loved him. Look at his Web site’s guest book: It’s amazing how many entries there are.

As Told To Christopher Danzig
My rendition of Little Willie John’s “Talk to Me” hit in 1963. About that time, Freddy and I started to do some of the rock and roll shows along with eight or nine stars doing tours around the country. Then I went to Tejano music, and he crossed over to country. For long periods of time, we’d be away from each other, and then Freddy and I would find ourselves on the same card in some Indian casino.

As Told To Katy Vine
In 1997 some of the Los Lobos guys were in town for South by Southwest and we got together and played some songs at Las Manitas café in Austin, and we started talking about doing a record together with a group of musicians. We were going to call the band Los Super Seven. We started talking about who would be in this mysterious band, and Freddy was the first one to pop up because his style was so unmistakable. It was a thrill to play with him, and then the real thrill to win a Grammy with him. I don’t usually play my records, but this one I do. Freddy just sang his heart out.

As Told To Christopher Danzig
I didn’t know him well until we did the Super Seven, when he was already sick. We performed on Conan O’Brien and The Tonight Show. We would celebrate and go to dinner. But he would never go. And I thought, “Man, this guy’s not a team player.” Then we were in California, and I went into the hotel room and he said, “I’m sorry I haven’t been sociable. Sometimes I’m hard to speak to, but I’m going through real difficult times as far as my health.” He told me he was taking three kinds of different medications [for his kidney and liver] and he had a reaction—he was always grumpy. I thought he was a fuddy-duddy, didn’t want to get together with us. Then I understood that he was an alcoholic, also. When you’re alcoholic, you try to stay away from temptation. I understood that, and from then on, I was a real good friend of his.

As Told To Katy Vine
I loved Freddy Fender. He had a good heart, and I loved his singing. In his heyday—and mine—back in the days of “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” we used to do a lot of package shows together. We both had hit records at that time so we used to work together a lot and hang out backstage and in restaurants. He had a great sense of humor, and I enjoyed being around him. He will be sorely missed, not only by me but by all Freddy Fender fans everywhere.

As Told To Katy Vine
I knew of him before I knew him. You know how you just know each other? Even though you haven’t met? Almost like two wolves meeting in the wild, wagging their tales? I’d heard that Freddy was Hispanic, Texican. And my band the Pharaohs was well aware of him when we started writing our songs. It’s like hearing another wolf howl at the other end of the forest and chiming in with your own howl. There’s a phrase that occurred to me: He was “Nideaquí.” We belong to the Nideaquí tribe. Those words are shorthand to me to mean, “neither of here nor of there.” I related to him through the bicultural experience that we have—but in other ways, too. You know, “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” hit when I was just getting out of the military; we never talked about it, but he was a marine. I drove down to the Valley to attend his funeral, and he got his 21-gun salute and I thought, “Yeah, that’s right.” What are you, Nideaquí? Nideaquís are survivors.

As Told To Katy Vine
Freddy was one of those rare cases, a man so multitalented he could step into any role with ease. He was a pleasure to direct because I didn’t have to direct him—just let him go. He had so much fun doing what he did that it created an infection of fun for those around him.

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