I met Rafael
Méndez - Dean Canty
As a cornet
student, growing up in west Texas, in Odessa, I wanted to play like
Harry James. Now, I do, but 1953-54 Rafael Mendez came to Odessa
High School to perform with the band, and I got a whole new perspective
on trumpet playing.
I got to play in
a trio with him and also had a lesson. In the late 50's,
early 60's I was a university student at Texas Western College in El
Paso, Texas. Across the border, in Juarez, Mexico, the
night-clubs used to have first-class entertainment, of which Mendez
would occasionally appear. A friend and I went to see Mendez, he
remembered me and from then on whenever he was going to be in Juarez,
or the surrounding area, he would let me know and I would go see his
performance and later, over his favorite drink " tequila". I was
able to absorb a tremendous amount of information. He was
above all a 'class act' , willing to spend time talking but not
lecturing, teaching, but not directly. I treasure the many hours
we sat and talked between sets in Juarez and include a picture of the
two of us as one of my prize possessions. No, I never did get
where I could tongue like him, but I did and do play all of his solos.
I have all of his vinyl records, as well as the complete cd collection.
think Dale Olson actually mentioned
that Olds made a Mendez model; it had a spring trigger on the third
valve slide, and also the valves were slightly set forward from the
standard placement. I also believe later Olds incorporated a lot
of this into the Olds Recording model.
I finished my
B.A. degree, received my Masters fromn NTSU with John Haynie,
another legend, and took my doctorate in conducting from
UT-Austin. I teach trumpet, concert band, jazz ensemble at
UT-Pan American and perform professionally, and at age 67 feel I play
better than ever.