I met Rafael
Méndez - Barry
I was sitting here at lunch
listening to some oldies and a trumpet solo made me think about looking
up the great Rafael Méndez on the net when I came upon your
terrific web page.
He came to our band-o-rama at Montebello High School (Montebello,
California) in 1962 as he had done hundreds or thousands of times at
other schools. It was with great anticipation we awaited his arrival on
Thursday evening as he was to perform with our concert and dance bands
the next night. It was a great era for bands as other greats like Artie
Shaw had been there a couple years earlier.
For about two hours he drilled us through his arragements and could
pick out every mistake we made. After this seemeingly endless rehersal
he finally got us as close as we could get to his standard and pulled
his trumpet out. He had an experimental trumpet that was as thin as
aluminum amd when it was moved by the airlines the bell got squashed.
He simply took a drumstick and bent it back into shape.
I was the first clarinet and sat within a few feet of him. I recall we
started playing Malaguena and when he joined in my clarinet simply
dropped out of my mouth. I was totally mesmerized by his incredible
talent and just sat there listening. All of the other messages about
Méndez are accurate--he was the Heifetz of the Trumpet.
One of my best friends in the band was a talented Trumpet player who
was already composing. Méndez invited him to his home and helped
him get started in the music business with his insight and enthusiasm
and he became a successful music composer and producer for 20 years.
We were seniors in 1962 and those two days of music with Méndez
were the musical highlight of my life.