Last week we lost one of the great musical influences for Chicanos and all of the country with the passing of Freddy Fender. Freddy, through his music broadened the understanding of the Blues Chicano style and his musica Tejana. Along with his other compadre Flaco Jimenez, they became living exponents of the Tex-Mex musical experience.
I had the good fortune during the early 80s to be friends with the only Democrat on the Del Mar Fair Board.
Freddy Fender was scheduled to perform and my friend invited me to attend so we could go backstage and meet Freddy and his then manager, a guy named Huey. As luck would have it, Huey asked my friend ,who was one the fair entertainment committee to help Freddy after the performance and make sure he made it to the winner circle lodge near the racetrack.
Freddy’s performance was exciting. The crowd went wild and wanted more. He must have done three or four encores before he ended it.
My friend had arranged for us to use the fancy electric cart that, at the time, was used exclusively by Don Diego to take Freddy to the winner circle lodge. To our surprise and excitement, Freddy told us he wanted to cruise the fairgrounds before heading out and he wanted to cash a check to get some partying money. We look for John Lopez who was the operator of the rides in the midway of the fair to get cash for Freddy. When John Lopez realized that it was Freddy Fender inside the cart, he invited us in to his big trailer where, given Freddy’s nature, we partied for quite sometime.
Finally, we went back to the winner circle lodge to leave Freddy and as we were dropping him off, he hears music coming from the bar called The Winner Circle. He said he wanted to go in for a little bit, so we went with him and he was mobbed by fans who came there after the fair. Because he had struggled in his music career, he said he felt a special appreciation for his fans. So he gladly gave of himself to them that night.
Along, with remembering Freddy as an artist and a person from that night, I also remember our discussion about music. We talked about how Chicano Blues performers like Randi Garibay, and others from San Antonio and other parts of Texas, never really got much recognition from the public outside of Texas.
He really shocked me when he said he knew some great musicians from Texas who had settled in San Diego and were early exponents of the Tex-Mex sound in southern California. He mentioned Bobby Guajardo and the Latin Breed and so many others bands from the time like Poli Chavez, Color, Mosaico, etc.
As I was thinking about Freddy passing, it made me wondered why we never recognized the earlier Tex-Mex bands of San Diego who gave our community so many good memories. Maybe, it’s time for us to honor our own before they are lost forever.