Johnny Mendel

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Change a single vowel in the name of trumpeter Johnny Mendel and you might wind up with a songwriter whose hits have been recorded thousands of times. There is no evidence, however, that Mendel ever cashed…
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Change a single vowel in the name of trumpeter Johnny Mendel and you might wind up with a songwriter whose hits have been recorded thousands of times. There is no evidence, however, that Mendel ever cashed a royalty check actually meant for Mandel, proving that accountants are somewhat more careful than the people who proofread publishing credits. Largely associated with the Chicago jazz scene, Mendel has quite interesting credits of his own, granted that his accomplishments aren't lengthy enough to be bound in volumes like Mandel's. The trumpeter was, simply put, a player, active in performing jazz up until his death at the age of 61, with such aplomb that none other than Duke Ellington would ask him to sit in at Chicago gigs.

Before consigning his blowing to the Windy City, Mendel toured with a series of '20s dance bands including an orchestra directed by Henri Gendron. The trumpeter was known as an expert in the art of the plunger mute -- a sound effect technique involving the rubber cup of a toilet plunger and not a method of unstopping said toilet without anyone hearing. There was a good reason that his plunger mute style sounded like he had learned it on the streets of New Orleans: for a time, Mendel took lessons directly from maestro King Oliver. Mendel began recording in the late '20s with Bud Freeman, and in the next decade worked with many Chicago bandleaders.

Reissue fodder from this period includes recordings with the excellent Charlie Barnet band.

During the '40s, Mendel left the full-time pursuit of a music career but was still active playing with Jim Jackson, Bud Jacobsen, Freeman, and others. The trumpeter began working as a teacher in the '50s; playing, of course, continued in that decade and into the next. As he went into his later years, Mendel was appreciated as a grand old man of Chicago jazz, booked for many local gigs including performances with the Frank Chase Sextet as well as Mendel's own combo called the Chicagoans.