Known as the "Heifetz of the Trumpet," Rafael Méndez was one of 15 children in his family. His father, Maximino, conducted a family orchestra in which Rafael played cornet. Emigrating to the United States at the age of 20, Méndez settled in Detroit. By day, he worked in an automobile factory and by night, would play with local bands and orchestras. He was unable to play after being hit in the face by a swinging door while at the the Fox Theatre in 1932. Méndez returned to Mexico, where his father helped him rehabilitate his playing. When he returned to Detroit, he met bandleader Rudy Vallee, and Méndez became a member of his radio orchestra, moving to New York City in 1934. Three years later, he was offered a job in Los Angeles for KHL radio, where he was a frequent soloist and where he began composing and arranging. Over the course of his lifetime, Méndez made over 300 compositions and arrangements for the trumpet. Between 1941-1949 Méndez was first trumpet in the MGM studio orchestra, which gave him the opportunity to perform as featured soloist at the Hollywood Bowl. He also recorded numerous 78 rpm records for small labels, such as Coast, Azteca, and Eleayz. Méndez was signed as a Decca recording artist in 1945, and over the next 20 years, he recorded a dozen records. When Méndez left MGM, he turned to touring and performing, often with student and amateur ensembles as well as professional groups, and to acting as music director for such radio and TV stars as Roy Rogers and Red Skelton. Méndez retired from performing in 1975 due to respiratory problems.
- Jiquilpan, Michoacan, Mexico
- Mar 26, 1906