HERB ALPERT (By Colin Kilgour)

Born 31 March 1935 (some sources say 1937), Los Angeles, California

One of the most successful instrumental performers in pop history, trumpeter Herb Alpert was also one of the entertainment industry's shrewdest businessmen: A&M, the label he co founded with partner Jerry Moss, ranks among the most prosperous artist-owned companies ever established. Alpert began playing the trumpet at the age of eight.

His discovery of a gimmick of taping a second trumpet part just slightly off key from the lead part proved one of the most lucrative and influential flukes in music history. If you were alive in the U.S. in the late 1960s, you would have to be deaf not to be exposed to the sound of Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. They were everywhere: on radio, on Muzak, and on television.

Herb Alpert saved middle-of-the-road music for millions of Americans just when rock and roll and soul began to get a little too threatening for them (poor dears). He married singer Lani Hall, the original voice of Sergio Mendes' Brasil '66. His unique arrangements of popular songs appealed to a wide number of music fans ... he arranged songs from Broadway ("Mame"), jazz ("The Work Song"), popular music (a variety of Beatles songs, for example), and other songs pulled from sources as diverse as Top 40 to classical. The earliest TJB albums were mainly studio creations using session musicians (Julius Wechter - marimba/percussion - recalls being paid $15 for his contribution to The Lonely Bull) but as success came, Alpert secured the services of several highly rated musicians. He grew up in L.A. and joined the U.S. Army after high school. He ended up in an Army band, and used his G.I. benefits to attend the University of Southern California after he got out. He soon dropped out of college, though, and knocked around until he got a job with Keen Records, whose leading star was early soul great Sam Cooke. Herb did A & R and Billboard quotes him as producing the first Jan and Dean session. Their first hit was Jennie Lee but I note it was the second hit Baby Talk, which was issued on the Dore label (originally as by Jan And Arnie). Dore was a teen pop label with a roster that boasted the Teddy Bears.

Whilst at Keen, Alpert wrote "Wonderful World" for Cooke, and it became one of Sam's all-time hits. The full writing credit is Lou Adler/Alpert/Cooke. Adler often wrote under the name Barbara Campbell ; Sam Cooke's Only Sixteen is his composition and Alpert/Cooke are often also shown as co-writers on that teen anthem. Alpert also co-wrote "Circle Rock" for Lloyd Copas (Dot), a wild rocker.

For Dante and the Evergreens, Alpert and Adler produced a cover of the Hollywood Argyles' "Alley Oop". Herb also dabbled in acting during this time and even got a bit part in The Ten Commandments. Back in the late 1950's through the early 1960's, Herb Alpert tried his hand at recording and writing more songs, including a couple of vocal efforts under the name of Dore Alpert for RCA. Becoming frustrated with the lack of a big hit and the tendency for the record labels he recorded for to go out of business, Alpert set up a small recording studio in his garage and was playing around with overdubbing, recording an instrumental composition called "Twinkle Star", written by friend Sol Lake. Being deeply affected (one could say "romanced") by a bullfight he attended in Tijuana, he happened to hear a mariachi band there so he added bullfight sound effects to the melody and mixed in crowd cheers. Alpert adopted his new trumpet style to the tune and renamed it "The Lonely Bull".

In order to release his new creation, Alpert and his partner Jerry Moss formed a record label called Carnival Records. They soon discovered that the name Carnival Records was already in use, so they needed another name for their new venture. Using the initials of their last names, A&M Records was formed. Recorded in Alpert's garage on a shoestring budget, "The Lonely Bull" went on to become a Billboard Top 10 hit in late62/early 63, peaking at #6. He paid out of his own pocket to press the record as a single and it spread through radio DJs until it caught on and became a hit. It was quickly followed with an album of "The Lonely Bull" and other titles. That also took off and the profits allowed A&M to begin building a repertoire of top artists. From its humble origins as a company run out of Alpert's garage, A&M grew to become the world's biggest independent label; among its greatest successes were the Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker and Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66, Chris Montez and The Sandpipers. Nevertheless, Alpert and his backing unit the Tijuana Brass remained the label's flagship act: on the strength of the hit "A Taste of Honey," his 1965 LP Whipped Cream and Other Delights topped the charts, popularising his Latin-influenced style (dubbed "Ameriachi") and finally bringing major nationwide success. By the end of 1964 there was a growing demand for live appearances by the Tijuana Brass. Alpert auditioned and hired a team of crack session men and put together a complete revue that included choreographed moves and comic routines. The band debuted in 1965 and quickly became one of the highest-paid acts then performing. The Tijuana Brass' records sold better than almost anything on the market. Its first sixth albums, released in rapid succession, racked up over 11 million copies in just three years. A&M even took advance orders from stores for forthcoming albums, to the tune of over 1 million copies for "What Now, My Love" alone. This explains why it's hard to find a thrift store in America without a few copies. While his second album could have launched him into relative obscurity, it was the song "Mexican Shuffle", a background for a commercial, that proved to the public that Herb Alpert and his Tijuana Brass were no fluke. Other hit singles incl. Spanish Flea in 66 and the infectious Casino Royale the following year. After 1966's What Now My Love - his most popular effort, remaining at number one for nine weeks - Alpert continued to dominate the charts with records including 1966's S.R.O. and the following year's Sounds Like and Herb Alpert's Ninth. After the Whipped Cream album, the success of the Tijuana Brass would snowball to the point where the group would place a record-breaking five albums in the top twenty, and would be the fourth largest album selling artist of the sixties, behind only Elvis, The Beatles and Sinatra. And although Herb Alpert is best known as a trumpet player, his first Billboard Number One honour would come in 1968 with a rare vocal turn on a rendition of a Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, "This Guy's In Love With You", which he sang in his CBS television special.

His second US No. 1 took another 11 years = Rise in 1979. 1969's Warm was the first of Alpert's 11 albums not to crack the Top 20; by 1971's Summertime, his commercial fates had fallen to the point where he no longer reached the Top 100. As A&M continued to thrive, he moved his primary focus from music to industry, although he regularly recorded throughout the early 1970 albeit to lessening chart success.

Alpert released 15 albums (including several compilations) with the group before disbanding it in 1972 to concentrate on running A&M. Alpert had formed a new Tijuana Brass in the 1970s and banded together a second reunion edition in 1984 for the Bullish album which led onto more TJB touring. In 1979, he had a major comeback with Rise; not only did the album reach the Top Ten, but the title track topped the singles charts and became the biggest hit of his career. The follow-up, 1980's Beyond, was a Top 40 success, but subsequent efforts like 1982's Fandango and 1985's Wild Romance fared poorly. In 1987 Alpert enjoyed another renaissance with the album Keep Your Eye on Me; the lead single "Diamonds" hit the Top Five and featured a guest vocal from Janet Jackson, one of A&M's towering successes of the late 1980s. Alpert also tackled other forms of media, exhibiting his abstract expressionist paintings and co-producing a number of Broadway successes including in the late 1980s, funding the first production of the Tony Award-winning play Angels in America. He also established the Herb Alpert Foundation, a philanthropic organization dedicated to establishing educational, arts, and environmental programs for children. Alpert continued recording throughout the 1990s, producing work like 1991's North on South Street, 1992's Midnight Sun and 1997's Passion Dance and eventually expanded his entertainment enterprise to include radio and television productions. After selling A&M to PolyGram in 1990 for a sum in excess of $500 million, he and Moss founded a new label, Almo Sounds (from their last names) in 1994; among the imprint's hit artists was the group Garbage. His own albums, including 1997's Passion Dance and 1999's Colors, were also released on the label.

Herb Alpert's legion of fans appears to continue including new converts in Europe and Japan and he continues to record when the occasion is right.

Websites: http://www.euronet.nl/users/wvbrecht/alpert.htm http://www.herbalpert.com/frameset.html http://members.aol.com/lanesong/HERBALPE.HTM http://members.aol.com/josonmus/AMhistory.html this is re the history of A & M http://www.tijuanabrass.com/alpert/index.php3?refer=amcorner = for post TJB recordings Colin Kilgour

 
These pages were saved from "This Is My Story" for reference usage only. Please note that these pages were not originally published or written by BlackCat Rockabilly Europe. For comments or information please contact Dik de Heer at dik.de.heer@ziggo.nl

-- Return to "This Is My Story" Index --

 


[Ads by Google]