Born Baldemar Garza Huerta (1937–2006) in San Benito TX in the Rio Grande Valley, American-Mexican singer
Freddy Fender wrote and recorded the blues ballad "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" (It is about how wrongly
I invested in a love affair) in 1959, an overnight hit ... selling like hotcakes in the Southern region.
He was about perfecting a blend of Rockabilly and Tejano music, before that known as Spanish singing El Bebop Kid,
but unfortunatly he was arrested on possession of marijuana and spent nearly three years in the Angola prison farm.
In 1975, Fender re-recorded the song in a swamp pop ballad arrangement and it became a major hit on
both country and pop music charts. It was the begin of an artistic career conquering the customary barriers and
borders of the music business of the time:
The type of country music I like is like rock and country. I don't care how much rock 'n' roll you put into the country song.
You know by their voice it's still country. The music and technique keep changing, but the roots of the tree are still on the
ground and still thriving. As long as the music is good - take off with it, man!
Fender didn't manage to write his life story himself. His daughter Tammy Lorraine Huerta took up the baton (Father must have concluded that living life was much more invigorating and valuable to him than writing about it), and dedicated her autobiography to a man who had the courage to live life to the fullest, love all people unconditionally, laugh and sing his blues away; and most importantly, learn to trust in a Higher Power. Her recollections are genuine and uncompromising, true to Freddy's burning desire: I do want them to write a real book, none of this lucky, hunky-dory poor-boy from the Rio Grande Valley, and he did really well, that they could root for and all that. No, I want the dark side, the bad things - about cocaine and the heroin shooting in my veins with the bad stuff of drug penitentiary, divorcing my wife, and why and all that! I want things written that were significant in my life!
Wasted Days and Wasted Nights is the first of a two-part autobiography, covering Freddy Fender's rise to stardom until 1979. Later, the Tejano superstar would struggle with alcohol and drugs and seek spiritual redemption. He also went on to form the Grammy-winning supergroups Texas Tornados (ft. Doug Sahm, Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers) and Los Super Seven (ft. David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Flaco Jiménez, Ruben Ramos, Joe Ely, Rick Trevino). In 2001, Fender made his final recording, a collection of Mexican boleros that brought him a third Grammy award. [Walkin' Tom]
Tammy Lorraine Huerta Fender, Wasted Days and Wasted Nights: A Meteoric Rise to Stardom. Xlibris Corp, 2017, ISBN 978-1-4568-5105-7, pp416, US$34.99
A prolific composer over thirty years or so, accordionist Paddy O'Brien from County Tipperary has become an icon for box players in particular and a source of great tunes for many Irish musicians. Paddy passed away in 1991, leaving a legacy of 139 tunes which his daughter Eileen has published in several forms: there was a previous Definitive Collection, now long out of print, so this new soft-bound version will be welcome for all those too slow or too young to acquire that hard-bound publication.
This edition comes with recordings of all the tunes on 3 CDs, played by Eileen on fiddle at around half speed, specifically for learning. If you're not familiar with Paddy O'Brien's music, I can tell you that some of it is quite complex, and it has a particular cadence which is subtly different from most Irish music. Not as different as the compositions of Paddy Fahy perhaps, but distinctive nonetheless, using the chromatic possibilities of the B/C accordion in ways which were ground-breaking at the time. A better comparison might be Finbarr Dwyer's tunes, although O'Brien doesn't have the Munster twang of the Dwyer family.
The tunes here are arranged by rhythm, and many of them are well known from sessions or recordings. Double jigs include Fogarty's Kate, The One that was Lost, The Fox in the Meadow, The Centenary Jig and the tragic Fly in the Porter. Single jigs, slip jigs, marches and polkas are represented in small numbers, and there are more than a score of hornpipes, but reels claim the lion's share of Paddy's output: well known ones include Bubbling Wine, The Four Leafed Shamrock, Larkin's Beehives, The Nervous Man, Hanly's Tweed, Into the Woods, and Ormond Sound which is the first Paddy O'Brien tune I remember hearing. There's also a reel called The Holly Bush which is very unlike Finbarr Dwyer's but just as catchy.
Most of these compositions are in G or D major or related minor keys, so will suit any Irish traditional instrument: some are in flat keys, or have no key signature. Each tune is clearly typeset on a large open stave. No chords or other accompaniments are sugested: this is purely the melody, with some ornamentation marked. Eileen O'Brien has added notes to many of the tunes, some historical, others very personal as her father became ill and needed her assistance to transcribe his later compositions. As well as being a valuable reference book, The Compositions of Paddy O'Brien is a fine resource for musicians to work through and find new material. It will probably become more widely available, but for now it may be easiest to find at the Custy's website above. [Alex Monaghan]
Eileen O'Brien, The Compositions of Paddy O'Brien 1922-1991 - Compiled, Edited and Recorded by Eileen O'Brien. 2017, pp64, €35 (www.custysmusic.com)
Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (from website/author/publishers).