Discouraged from using his Latin name as a pop star, the Minneapolis barber never stopped making music
On July 6, 1959, Billboard, the music and entertainment magazine, ran a story about Skip and Flip. The first rock and roll duo had a hit single that climbed the charts, as well as Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans”, Frankie Avalon’s “Bobby Sox to Stockings” and “A Big Hunk O’ Love” by ‘Elvis Presley.
Billboard revealed that the duo’s flip side was a 19-year-old University of Arizona student named Chuck Mendell. But Chuck Mendell was not his real name. It was actually Carlos Mendoza.
“Like many Latino artists at the time – for example Richard Valenzuela (Ritchie Valens) – the music industry didn’t like my father’s Latino surname”, according to Mendoza’s son, Tony Mendoza. “For a man who was very proud of his last name, Dad was embittered by his experience in the music industry,” Tony said. written in a blog post.
Carlos Mendoza left the duo and enlisted. He served in Vietnam, but he didn’t give up on music. In the Marines, he was a lance corporal playing the saxophone, performing in bands to entertain his fellow Marines.
After being released, he moved to Minnesota, went to barber school, and cut hair for over 30 years at a store he owned in Bloomington called the Barber Nook. He moonlighted in bands in the Twin Cities nightclub scene. Although he is okay with his nickname, Chuck, he has always used his last name, Mendoza.
Mendoza, a Bloomington resident, died Feb. 6 from a stroke. He was 83 years old.
Mendoza was born in Mesa, Arizona, and his father was a grocer and mayor of the town of Eloy, Arizona. He studied music at the University of Arizona. Besides being part of Skip and Flip, he recorded instrumental singles for Warner Brothers with a band named Johnny Zorro.
In Minnesota, he performed with the Frank Wagamon Sextet, inducted into the Mid-America Music Hall of Fame. He also played with his son Tony’s band, called Frank Brownstone and Associates, at venues like First Avenue and Fine Line.
“When Dad and I got to play and play together, it was magical,” Tony Mendoza said.
Tony said his father moved to Minnesota because a friend was going to school at the University of Minnesota, but he fell in love with the state.
“He took Minnesota like a walleye takes Lac Mille Lacs,” Tony said.
He also enjoyed working and continued to cut his hair until just a few years ago when he became physically unable to do so. In his barbershop, he maintained a wall of fame that featured photos of clients who served in the military.
Bloomington resident Phil Larson has gone to Mendoza for decades for weekly $20 cuts. “He was just a great guy,” Larson said.
Mendoza is survived by his wife, Tina; Brother Roy, of Tucson, Arizona.; sister Sylvia Platt, of Chandler, Ariz.; children Tony of St. Paul, Valerie of Farmington, Laura Erickson of Williston, ND, and Scott Kewley of New Prague; and eight grandchildren. Services took place.