“From My Eyes” by Freddy Fender
My father, Serapio Huerta, had become very ill and was dying. He was born in 1907 and died at the young age of thirty-eight years old in 1945 of tuberculosis. This TB in the 1940s was known to our people—as consumption. I was playing marbles, and some kids came and got me and said, “Come on, your father is dying, and they want you!” I was the oldest, and he had been having some problems with me, so I ran to the house, and my brothers and sisters were lined up getting their blessing from him. I am the last one, and I’m going, “Well, hurry up, man, come on!”
When it finally came to my turn, instead of giving me his blessing, he was telling Mother what to do in case I kept getting out of line. I said, “Wait a minute, you haven’t blessed me yet!” Finally, they took his hand, and he blessed me. So my life has been somewhat crazy from the very beginning, and I love it. I don’t think I would have it any other way.
Satan and Disciples: The Cat’s Meow
In the Quarter, psychedelic music and hallucinogenic drugs of all kinds were “in.” New Orleans was a very exciting place, with many extracurricular activities, such as voodoo, using love potions, and practicing satanic rituals. But as for Freddy, he just couldn’t get enough of New Orleans’ vibrant music scene. So in the 1960s, Father joined a cool and strange looking cat named R. O. Bates, who called himself Satan. So Freddy extended the name to “Satan and Disciples,” and man, would they put on one heck of a show! The music and lights alone would get you amped up and high. The long-haired, tall, skinny leader, who dressed up as Satan, wearing a red velour outfit, horns, and a long red tail, was very scary. Of course, the Disciples wore colorful Mexican ponchos and huge Mexican hats! During the show, Satan would light up a stick, place it at the end of his mouth, and blaze fire toward the audience. Then Freddy would start singing, and everybody would just go crazy!
Father and R. O. Bates wrote and recorded a couple of cool songs called “Mummie’s Curse” and “Cat’s Meow.” Anything and everything Dad was experiencing was being expressed through his music. One night, about 3:00 a.m., Dad came in from working at Papa Joe’s and woke us all up. We all had to get up as though it was Christmas or something special. Dad came in with a couple of foot-long chilidogs, and it was a real treat for us. Above all, we thought it was really nice of Dad to think about us like that. I think Dad was just beginning to love us being around him, as a family and not cramping his lifestyle—with his bombastic persona and audacious Tejano rock, Funkadelic, rhythm, and blues with a pinch of swamp pop music blasting us away, every day!
One afternoon Balde, Big Lou, and Benny Huerta went downtown to the Rivoli Theatre to see Gone with the Wind. When they walked out together, Balde turned back and pointed to the marquee and said, “You wait and see, one day it will say, BALDEMAR HUERTA!” He added, “You know in my mind, I know I’m a celebrity, but I’m just the only one that knows it!” [Laughter] “He was always telling everybody this,” stated Big Lou.
Balde was supposed to sing for KGBT television the next day in Harlingen and he needed to look good for the show, so he asked the boys if they had a coat for him to wear, but none had one. A quick thinker, Balde had spotted a nice coat hanging inside a pickup truck as they walked pass a beer joint called The Hollywood club. So he told his friends to keep on walking and that he would catch up with them. A few minutes later, Balde came running from behind and shouted, “Let’s get out of here!” The next morning, he looked sharp wearing his new stolen black-and-white checkered jacket during his live television appearance for KGBT in Harlingen, Texas.
"From My Eyes" by Freddy Fender
I’d have to say I never got adjusted to, uh, confinement. All I did was keep telling myself to keep on doing time, and just kept on doing it! You get adjusted to a way of living with other convicts, compromising, being diplomatic about things—smiling at people you don’t like—and having to like people you dislike because of the circumstances. Racial tension was very heavy in the penitentiary at that time, to the point that I was spotted by one of the guards playing guitar with a black person and they put me in the hole for a week.
I always tried to get a benefit out of any situation. I think I got a benefit being exposed to Southern music, to be able to combine the frustrations and suffering of loneliness. The separation from my family was hard. I saw a lot of friends of mine cry like babies when they could not wait any longer for them. So I just took her off the mailing list, and when I came out of the penitentiary, I just got together with her and picked up the pieces again—go on forward and don’t look back!
© Tammy Lorraine Huerta Fender - Book "Wasted Days and Wasted Nights" - A Meteoric Rise to Superstardom