Lydia Mendoza (May 21, 1916 – December 20, 2007) was an
American guitarist and singer of Tejano, conjunto, and traditional
Mexican-American music. She is known as "La Alondra de la Frontera"
(or "The Lark of the Border" in English).
Mendoza was born on May 21, 1916, in Houston, Texas. She
learned to sing and play stringed instruments from her mother and grandmother.
In 1928, as part of the family group, Cuarteto Carta Blanca, she made her first
recordings for the Okeh Records label in San Antonio, Texas.
In the early 1930s, Mendoza came to the attention of Manuel
J. Cortez, a pioneer of Mexican-American radio broadcasting. Her live radio
performances set the stage for her 1934 recordings on the Bluebird Records
label, a subsidiary of RCA Victor. Her recording, "Mal Hombre",
became an overnight success and led to an intensive schedule of touring and
After World War II, Mendoza recorded for many of the major
Mexican-American record labels mostly located in Texas. She continued actively
performing and recording up until a stroke in 1988 slowed her schedule down.
Many of her recordings are still available including those issued by Arhoolie
Records, a California-based label specializing in the release of regional forms
of American music.
Over the years, Lydia Mendoza was the recipient of numerous
awards and honors: In 1982, she became the first Texan to receive the National
Heritage Fellowship lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for
the Arts. In 1999, she was awarded the National Medal of Arts, and in 2003, she
was among the second group of recipients to be awarded the Texas Medal of Arts
by the Texas Cultural Trust.
Lydia Mendoza died on December 20, 2007, in San
Antonio, Texas, at the age of 91. She is interred at San Fernando Cemetery in
San Antonio, Texas. Recorded on October 22, 1936.
Cowan Powers and his Family Band was a Virginia string band
from the 1920s, considered pioneers in early country music. They were the first
family string band to make a commercial record (1924). The band consisted of
Cowan Powers and his children, Charles, Orpha, Carrie and Ada. Cowan also
played with his wife, Matilda, until her death in 1916.
Record companies of the time were trying to get "old
time" or "hill country" music to sell, and tried using
professional musicians such as Vernon Dalhart to imitate the sound. When it
became clear the customers wanted the "real thing" the companies
sought musicians to travel from the south to the recording studios in New York
The Powers family made records with Victor Talking Machine
Company, Edison Records and Okeh Records. They recorded at least 26 songs, of
which 15 were issued. Their recording of Old Joe Clark in 1924 was the third
best selling album for that year.
They performed live in "the Carolinas, Virginia, West
Virginia, Kentucky, and perhaps a dozen other states". They played dances.
At the time of the Bristol Sessions they were performing live over the radio,
WOPI in Bristol, Virginia, and were among the first country acts to do so.
The daughters restarted the band in the 1970s, with Orpha's
husband Eugene D. Ireson.
The Powers family did a trial recording with Victor
Recordings in New York City, August 8, 1924, recording Way Down to Georgia.
They started recording records for Victor, doing six records
10 days later on August 18. Of those recordings, three records were issued, The
Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane, Old Joe Clark, and Sour Wood Mountains.
They continued recording the next day, August 19. They
recorded eleven songs of which five were issued, Patty on the Turnpike,
Callahan's Reel, Sugar in the Gourd, Cripple Creek, and Ida Red.
The family recorded with Edison in 1925, October 2, 3, 6 and
7 in New York City. Seven of the nine that they recorded were issued, Old Joe
Clark, Sour Wood Mountains, Ida Red, Cripple Creek, Cluck Old Hen, Rocky Road
to Dinah's House, and Sugar in the Gourd.
Charlie Powers, Cowan's son, also recorded a song on his own
with Edison, Wild and Reckless Hobo.
The last recording session was for Okeh records in
Winston–Salem, North Carolina, September 28, 1927. Within three years the band
would be no more, as the girls married and began families. They recorded six
songs, of which four were issued, Did You Ever See the Devil, Uncle Joe?, Old
Molly Hair, Old Virginia Reel — Part 1, and Old Virginia Reel — Part 2. Recorded on October 5 & 6, 1925.