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Freddy Fender Obituary
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Mexican-Americans were largely invisible then; their experience and their culture of little interest outside the border region. As a young man, he became interested in music, but with a name like his he knew he would never get anywhere. So he changed it, becoming Freddy Fender. He chose Fender in honor of his guitar; Freddy because of the alliteration. The first music he played was called Conjunto — a rambunctious combination of polka from the German and Czech settlers of Texas - and traditional Mexican music played mostly by itinerant bands and centered on a button accordion, often accompanied by a string guitar, a violin and occasionally, a drum.
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He grew up in a barrio that, he is quick to point out, was not a crowded ghetto but just a poor Hispanic neighborhood. The first music he played was Tejano, conjunto, Tex-Mex- the rambunctious combination of polka from the German settlers of Texas and traditional Mexican music- he learned by watching and listening at weddings and other events in the neighborhood. At the same time, Fender was getting a first-hand education in the blues. His parents were migrant workers and he traveled with them during the picking season. Many of his fellow workers were black, and some of them, Fender remembers, were good enough singers and musicians to have been professionals. The blues music he heard in the fields would become an integral part of his own unique style. At 16, he joined the Marines for a three year hitch. After his discharge, he started playing Texas honky tonks and dance halls. In , Hollywood called him -- not to act but to sign to Imperial Records, the label of such greats as Fats Domino.
Fender dropped out of high school at age 16 in , and when he turned 17, he enlisted for three years in the U. Marine Corps. According to Fender, he later received a letter from the U. Department of the Navy saying that he had been wrongfully discharged dishonorably because of alcoholism , and he was given a general discharge. He became known for his rockabilly music and his cool persona as Eddie con los Shades. In he legally changed his name from Baldemar Huerta to Freddy Fender. He took the name Fender from the guitar and amplifier, and Freddy because the alliteration sounded good and would "sell better with Gringos! After serving nearly three years in the Louisiana State Penitentiary, he was released through the intervention of then-governor Jimmie Davis , also a songwriter and musician.