By Amy Ryan
October 16, 2006 at 08:28 PM EDT

I always thought of Freddy Fender as sorta old. The singer/guitarist born Baldemar Huerta was nearly 40 in 1975 when he won the Academy of Country Music’s Best New Artist award and scored his breakthrough hits, the bilingual “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” (a cover of his own 1960 tune). Fender, who died at 69 on Saturday after a battle with lung cancer, remained an old pro to the end of his days, crossing genre boundaries easily (from conjunto to country to R&B), playing in such supergroups of Tex-Mex vets (including Doug Sahm and Flaco Jimenez) as Texas Tornados and Los Super Seven, and serving as an inspiration to generations of younger crossover stars, from Los Lobos to Los Lonely Boys.

There’s a good timeline of Fender’s life and career highlights here and thorough accounts of his life and impact here and here. USA Today has some audio and video goodies here. And of course, there’s plenty more at Fender’s own website.

Me, I was lucky enough to see him play about eight years ago with Los Super Seven, where he came onstage last, like a king, with an enormous halo of hair and a giant belt buckle, befitting his status as the self-proclaimed Mexican Elvis. I’ll be remembering him today by spinning LS7’s “Un Lunes por la Mañana” (“Early on a Monday Morning”) and “Piensa en Mí,” (“Think of Me”).

addCredit(“Freddy Fender: Steve Snowden/Getty Images”)