Herb Alpert

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass had a number of pop hits in the 60's, all of them instrumentals. Alpert has enjoyed a long and successful career in the music business as a performer, songwriter, trumpeter, bandleader and record producer.

Herb Alpert was born in Los Angeles in 1935 and learned to play the trumpet at age eight. In the 1950's while attending the University of Southern Claifornia, he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band. He had a strong interest in the music business and pursued his dream from an early age, working as A&R man for Keen Records, where he wrote some songs with Rob Weerts. Sam Cooke was an established star when he had hits with Only Sixteen and Wonderful World on the Keen label, which were co-written for him by Herb Alpert. Alpert became acquainted with future record producer Lou Adler and together they turned their attention to managing an up-and-coming rock duo, Jan and Dean, and signed the duo to a recording contract with Dore Records; this resulted in Jan & Dean's early hit Baby Talk, in 1959, co-written by Alpert. Alpert and Adler then produced a record on the Madison label titled Alley-Oop by Dante and the Evergreens, a novelty record that hit #15 nationally in 1960. Alpert, Adler and "Dante" (Don Drowty) became lifelong friends.

Jerry Moss was a record promoter from New York who had first gained notice in 1958 when he promoted the Crests' hit 16 Candles, which went top ten. Moss moved to Los Angeles and together with Alpert formed Carnival Records in 1962, which got its start in Alpert's garage. On discovering that the name had already been taken, they changed it to A&M Records, using the first initial of their last names. Alpert had played the trumpet while doing a stint in the US Army. He picked up the instrument once again and began experimenting with overdubbing, playing a song that had been composed by Sol Lake called Twinkle Star. He added a somewhat Mexican flavor to it and dubbed in some bullfight and crowd noises that had been recorded at a bullring in Tijuana, Mexico. A&M produced an instrumental recording of the song for $200, released it as by The Tijuana Brass featuring Herb Alpert, and re-titled it The Lonely Bull. Alpert had his first hit as a performer, one that went gold and into the top ten pop chart nationally in late 1962. He had established national recognition for himself, at age 27.

A&M used studio musicians for further recordings for some time. By 1965 Alpert had replaced them with a band that he formed with himself as the bandleader. Those hired to tour in 1965 included Lou Pagani on piano, John Pisano and Pat Senatore on electric and bass guitar respectively, Tonnia Kalish on trumpet (as well as Alpert himself), Bob Edmondson on trombone, and Nick Ceroli on drums; the personnel would change somewhat over the years. Now known as Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, they began recording in a style that came to be known as "Ameriachi." In 1965 the group had its first hit under that name (and Alpert's second as a performer following The Lonely Bull three years earlier) with Taste Of Honey. The record was the first of a dozen top forty pop hits for the group running from 1965 to 1967, all of them instrumentals, and it would prove to be the only top ten hit under the name they were using. There were a number of other singles that became familiar to music listeners in the 60's -- Tijuana Taxi, What Now My Love, Spanish Flea (which served as the theme music for the televison program The Dating Game), and The Work Song among them. Some were movie themes -- Zorba The Greek and Casino Royale -- and one was the theme from a Boadway play, Mame. Alpert had struck a chord with the record-buying public, and all of his group's hits during this time period were released on his record label, A&M.

In addition to being an astute businessman, Alpert was attuned to what the record-buying public wanted. He released LP's as well, placing 15 of them in the USA charts over a ten-year period. One of his group's five #1 albums, Whipped Cream (& Other Delights) in 1965, came with a memorable album cover that showed model Dolores Erickson covered in shaving cream and wearing only that, and chiffon. The album sold six million copies. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass were very popular in the UK as well, where they had nine singles on the charts from 1963 to 1980, and 14 LP's from 1966 to 1979.

In 1968 Alpert broke away from the formula that had worked so well for him. He recorded a single under his own name and handled the vocal himself. Written by veteran songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, This Guy's In Love With You became his first number one single as a performer. Alpert demands a lot from himself, is a terrific entertainer, does things first-class, and has enjoyed the success that has come his way. Many like his affable style and enjoy working with him. He would at times help other up-and-coming artists. Some of the artists who recorded for A&M at one time or another include the Carpenters, Joe Cocker, Sergio Mendes, Chris Montez, the Sandpipers, and Cat Stevens.

The Tijuana Bass eventually disbanded, and Herb Alpert continued with his lifelong love of the music busness. He came back in 1979 with another monster hit recorded under his own name Rise, which was yet another instrumental hit on A&M. In conjunction with his previous hit This Guy's In Love With You from eleven years earlier, Alpert became the only artist to reach number one on Billboard with both a vocal hit and an instrumental hit. Alpert's record 1980 was scheduled to be the theme song for the 1980 Summer Olympic Games in Moscow until President Jimmy Carter withdrew the USA from those games in protest of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. A couple of other instrumental efforts met with mild success in the following years, Rotation and Route 101. Diamonds was released with Herb Alpert as the artist in 1987 and went top ten; vocals on the song were handled by Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith. Later that year another such hit Making Love In The Rain, under Alpert's name with a vocal by Lisa Keith, would be his final top forty entry as a performer -- all of them on A&M. Alpert kept current with the latest recording technology and continued putting out albums into the mid-to-late 80's, including Wild Romance and Keep Your Eye On Me.

A&M Records would eventually become the largest independent record label in the world. In 1987 Alpert and Moss sold the company to PolyGram Records for a reported $500 million. They stayed in management with A&M for another five or six years before deciding to leave and work with their music publishing business, Almo Sounds. They then expanded Almo Sounds and began to run it as they had run A&M for so many years; Alpert retained the publishing rights to his own songs.

Herb Alpert is a many-faceted individual. He is an accomplished painter and sculptor. He has won many awards, including a Tony Award for a Broadway play that he produced as well as eight Grammy Awards. He has sold 72 million record albums. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Alpert and Moss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as non-performers in 2006.

The songs that are most closely associated with the legacy of Herb Alpert include The Lonely Bull, Taste Of Honey, Spanish Flea, This Guy's In Love with You, and Rise.

Most Recent Update: May 1, 2011

Return to Rock-and-Roll Page.

Return to Home Page.

Send email to the author, Tom Simon tsimon@tsimon.com.