'Before the Next Teardrop Falls': The Story Behind Freddy Fender's Surprise Crossover Smash

Tex-Mex country singer, Freddy Fender gestures to photographers after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Los Angeles, Thursday, Feb. 4, 1999. More than 100 people showed up to witness the unveiling of the star, the 2,129th dedicated along the famous walkway. Texas Gov. George W. Bush even wrote to the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce to endorse the awarding of a sidewalk star. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Freddy Fender (born Baldemar Garza Huerta) struck gold with his 1975 country-pop hit "Before the Next Teardrop Falls". But the song had been around for years before he even got hold of it. The Texas native wasn't initially a country singer, so one of the biggest hits of his career definitely came as a surprise.

Vivian Keith and Ben Peters wrote the song in 1967, working together at  Fingerlake Music Publishing Company in Nashville. Vivian came up with the title and the song was pretty much written in one night, with a couple of tweaks made to the title.

Numerous artists recorded the song before Fender but only found modest success. The original version was recorded by Duane Dee, but Dee was drafted during the song's release and it only peaked at No. 44 on the country charts. Linda Martell gave it her own spin in 1970, reaching #33 on the billboards and Jerry Lee Lewis even recorded a version on his 1969 album, Another Place Another Time.

Producer Huey P. Meaux had already worked with Fender and was dubbed "The Crazy Cajun." He approached the singer in 1974 to record "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" but Fender initially didn't want to record the song. (His real passions were "Tejano Rock" and "Swamp Pop.") But with the instrumentals of the track already recorded, it would be a quick session for Fender to add vocals.

 But Fender decided to recorded the song anyway. He performed the song bilingual, with the first half in English and second half in Spanish. He thought he was pretty much done with the song after they wrapped. He couldn't have been more wrong.

The song took off and was an immediate success, skyrocketing to number one on the Hot Country Singles chart in 1975. And it didn't stop there. The song also hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 and became the top five song of the entire year. Fender went on to secure four additional number one hits on the country charts. It just goes to show you never know what will happen, so live on the wild side of life and take opportunities when they come your way.

You could say that "Before the Next Teardrop Falls" really jumpstarted Fender's career. It helped that it was produced by Meaux. Fender had hit a roadblock in his career with his arrest from drug possession and really needed a win. Meaux produced the song with a Tex-Mex approach, which made the song resonate with audiences and even led Fender to release more bilingual singles including "Secret Love." He also released a version of the song completely in Spanish.

There were only six songs in 1975 that topped both the Country and Hot 100 Billboard charts, so this was an incredibly impressive feat. It definitely contributed to Fender winning the Single of the Year award from the Country Music Association. The song, which was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America for over one million sales, was a life changing for Fender. It also helped pave the way for future bilingual hits on the radio, for both country and pop.

It was Fender's dying wish that he become the first Mexican American inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He passed away from a battle with cancer in 2006. Hopefully the singer's wish comes true soon.

This story first ran on June 11, 2019.

'Before the Next Teardrop Falls' Lyrics:

If he brings you happiness

Then I wish you all the best

It's your happiness that matters most of all

But if he ever breaks your heart

If the teardrops ever start

I'll be there before the next teardrop falls

Si te quiere de verdad

Y te da felicidad

Te deseo lo más bueno pa' los dos

Pero si te hace llorar

A mé me puedes hablar

Y estaré contigo cuando triste estás

I'll be there anytime

You need me by your side

To drive away every teardrop that you cried

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'Before the Next Teardrop Falls': The Story Behind Freddy Fender's Surprise Crossover Smash