Dubbed "La Alondra de la Frontera," singer Lydia Mendoza was an early legend of Tejano music. Born May 21, 1916, in Houston, TX, she was the product of a musical family; she performed with her parents and sister Francisca in a group, La Familia Mendoza, which found success in local variety shows, and her other sisters Maria and Juanita made up their own popular duet act, Las Hermanas Mendoza. In 1928 Mendoza's father spotted an advertisement in a Spanish-language newspaper calling for musical groups, and they soon traveled to San Antonio to record for the Okeh label; their profits from the session funded a move to Detroit, MI, in the pursuit of migrant labor. There the Mendozas earned a dedicated fan base among their fellow migrant workers and other Latin Americans who had journeyed north during the Mexican Revolution.
Upon returning to Texas during the early '30s to play San Antonio's Plaza de Zacate, La Familia Mendoza earned another opportunity to record in 1934. After cutting a half-dozen tracks with the entire family unit, Lydia was offered the opportunity to record another six songs solo; among them was "Mal Hombre," which became a major hit throughout the Spanish-speaking community. Its success led to a contract with the Bluebird label, for whom she recorded close to 200 songs between 1934 and 1940; she also became the featured talent in the family show, backed by her sisters, before the outbreak of World War II brought a halt to their touring schedule. Following her mother's 1952 death, Mendoza continued as a solo performer, recording for labels including Falcon, Ideal, and Victor; a noted songwriter, she also penned the Tejano perennial "Amor Bonito." She announced her retirement in 1988 and passed away nearly 20 years later in late 2007. ~ Jason Ankeny
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