Born on March 31, 1937, in Los Angeles, CA; married Lani Hall (a former singer), c. 1968. Addresses: Record company--Shout! Factory, 2042-A Armacost Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90025. Website--Herb Alpert Official Website: http://www.herbalpert.com.
Trumpet player Herb Alpert was working in the makeshift recording studio in his garage one day in 1962 when he happened on something interesting; he discovered that he could add a new dimension to his sound by recording a second trumpet part directly on top of the original, a process known as overdubbing. When the two parts were combined slightly out of synchronization, another effect was produced, which he called a "Spanish flair."
At 25, Alpert was already a Los Angeles music industry veteran with a track record of peaks and valleys. Among the highlights was a songwriting collaboration with friend Lou Adler and seminal soul singer Sam Cooke that produced several chart entries, including the oft-covered "Wonderful World." With Adler, Alpert also produced and managed Jan & Dean in their pre-surf-music days, resulting in a top ten hit for "Baby Talk." Having recently dissolved his partnership with Adler, Alpert was wondering what his next move should be.
The answer came to him a couple of months later in Tijuana, Mexico, during his first visit to a bullfight. Soaking up the atmosphere, he suddenly realized how to utilize that "Spanish flair." He recorded the thunderous chants of the bullfight crowd and, back in his garage studio, he added them to his "flaired" recording of a friend's instrumental composition called "Twinkle Star," which he then retitled "The Lonely Bull."
In October of 1962 Alpert and his partner Jerry Moss put up $200 to press copies of the song, which was credited to the Tijuana Brass featuring Herb Alpert. A&M Records (for Alpert & Moss), with a home address of Alpert's garage, was thus in business. And what business---by the following February, "The Lonely Bull" had muscled its way into the top ten, selling close to a million copies.
The sound Alpert devised---an easy-to-digest blend of mariachi bounce, Dixieland charm, and the barest hint of rock rhythms---was dubbed "Ameriachi," and it caught on immediately. "The Tijuana Brass," declared Time, "is basically just a good old-fashioned melody band that makes no pretensions toward the new. No soul-searching Thelonious Monk stuff, no revolutionary developments---just pleasant music that is as universal in its way as Bob Hope is in his."
Repeatedly Topped the Charts
Alpert reached out to an older, more traditional---and at the time largely disenfranchised---pop audience, with a continuous schedule of concert dates and television appearances. It worked. The top ten hit "A Taste of Honey" propelled three Tijuana Brass albums onto the charts simultaneously in 1965, but Alpert topped even that the following year; in April of 1966 his fifth album, Going Places, resided at number one, while the four discs previously released crowded the rest of the top 20. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass had five of the top 20 albums---and were outselling the Beatles.
But Alpert did not fare especially well during the dawn of the psychedelic era. He charted nine singles in 1966 and 1967, but none even approached the top ten. Then he teamed with superproducer Burt Bacharach to record a rare vocal effort called "This Guy's in Love With You." Alpert had been signed briefly to RCA Records as a vocalist in 1960---it was there, in fact, that he'd first met Jerry Moss---but all the previous Tijuana Brass records had been trumpet-driven instrumentals.
Something about Alpert's soft, reticent voice suited the song, and it struck a sympathetic chord with listeners. "This Guy" shot to number one and became one of the biggest records of 1968. Perhaps even more remarkably, the record represented a number of firsts for three artists already at the pinnacle of the recording industry. It was the first number one single for Alpert and his first million-selling single, the first number one for producer Bacharach, and the first number one for the distinguished songwriting team of Bacharach and Hal David. According to a Time profile, Alpert grossed $30 million in 1968 and paid his Tijuana Brass sidemen base salaries of $100,000 each. Both were considered astronomical sums in the economic context of the day. Alpert's "comeback" had taken him to a whole new level. The group spent 32 weeks in the number one position on the charts between 1962 and 1968. According to Billboard's records, the group had 13 platinum discs, 14 top 40 hits, and six Grammy Awards. It was also, as of 1966, "the only recording act ever to land four albums in the top 10 simultaneously."
A&M Records Became a Success
A&M Records, meanwhile, had become a thriving concern. Fewer than five years after launching their business out of Alpert's garage, Alpert and Moss acquired and moved their operation onto the old Charlie Chaplin movie studio lot near the corner of Sunset and La Brea in Hollywood. Their roles would blur somewhat over the years, but Moss generally handled distribution and sales while Alpert looked after the creative side.
Initially the label was stocked with close musical relatives of the Tijuana Brass, such as the Baja Marimba Band and Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66. The success of these acts, in addition to Alpert's phenomenal sales, enabled the label to develop in whatever direction it chose. Alpert and Moss took the opportunity seriously, and A&M grew into one of the most successful and respected independent record labels of all time.
Michael Goldberg of Rolling Stone called A&M "a company that became known as one of the classiest in the business ... where music really did come first. It was a company known for its commitment to its artists." Over the years A&M developed multi-platinum careers for acts like the Carpenters, Cat Stevens, Carole King, Captain and Tennille, Peter Frampton, Quincy Jones, Bryan Adams, the Police, Amy Grant, Sting, and Janet Jackson. But the real strength of A&M was in its diversity; it welcomed and nurtured left-field talent like Joe Cocker, Procol Harum, Captain Beefheart, the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Tubes, Joe Jackson, Suzanne Vega, John Hiatt, and the Neville Brothers, to name but a few.
Even as he presided over the mushrooming of the company, Alpert maintained a sporadic recording career of his own. In 1978 he released a highly regarded album in collaboration with South African trumpeter Hugh Masakela. The following year his disco-inflected single "Rise" rose all the way to number one, sold a million copies, and won the 1979 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance. In 1987 Alpert enlisted the help of hot dance producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis to concoct the top ten hit "Diamonds," which also featured a guest vocal by Janet Jackson.
Somehow Alpert also found the time to branch out into other fields. A talented painter, he began showing his quarter century of work publicly in 1989. That same year he introduced a fragrance for women called Listen. And since the mid-1980s he has directed the activities of the Herb Alpert Foundation, the charitable works of which benefit worthy music, education, and humanitarian projects throughout the country.
Sold A&M to Polygram
After 27 years of running their company as an independent entity, Alpert and Moss sold A&M to the PolyGram Corporation in June of 1989. By that time their little operation had grown to include recording studios, a thriving song publishing arm, the bustling Chaplin Soundstage, and a successful film and television production company. Retaining only the publishing company, Rondor Music, the partners sold everything else to PolyGram for close to half a billion dollars.
In June of 1993 Alpert and Moss departed the management posts they had retained at A&M/PolyGram. By the fall of that year Rondor Music was well on its way to spinning off a full-fledged label. In 1994 Alpert and Moss founded Almo Sounds. The label was distributed by Geffen Records. Its eclectic artist roster included Garbage, Gillian Welch, Bijou Phillips, Ozomatli, as well as Alpert himself. It also released the compilation Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons in 1999. Soon after, the label was sold to Universal and eventually shut down.
Alpert's career achievements were recognized in 1997 by the Billboard Latin Music Awards. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award, given annually "to a recording artist or executive who has helped broaden the exposure of Latino music to the mainstream market," according to the magazine. "As a recording artist, Alpert ... greatly expanded the presence of Latino-slanted sounds throughout the world with his Tijuana Brass ensemble."
Critics were not always kind to Alpert's later solo recordings. Entertainment Weekly's Steve Futterman said in a review of 1996's Second Wind that it conjures up "images of dentists' offices, confining elevators, and other unpleasant environments," thus "producing the opposite of its intended effect. Alpert, an unpretentious, unremarkable trumpeter who's got his lite-jazz licks down cold, works here with fusion schlockmeister Jeff Lorber to concoct a sonic wet blanket of mechanized rhythms and colorless keyboards."
The label Shout Factory announced in 2004 that it would be re-releasing the back catalog of Herb Albert & the Tijuana Brass, as well as Alpert's solo recordings in its "Herb Alpert Signature Series." The label's announced plans included reissues of albums out of print for years.
According to Billboard, Alpert was responsible for remastering the sets and the expanded liner notes. He did re-record some of the trumpet parts for the releases. "It caught me off guard," he said of the project. "I try not to live in the past, [but] when I heard these tapes, I just felt it would be nice for people to be able to experience it.
In addition to putting the classics South of the Border and The Lonely Bull back into circulation on CD in February of 2005, the label issued Lost Treasures, previously unreleased songs recorded by the Tijuana Brass at the height of its popularity. Whipped Cream and Other Delights, now considered a classic, was set for release in 2005.
by Ben Edmonds and Linda Dailey Paulson
Herb Alpert's Career
Began trumpet study, c. 1944; actor, 1956-58; formed partnership with record producer Lou Adler, 1958; wrote with singer Sam Cooke, 1958; became staff producer for Dore Records, 1959; with Adler, produced and managed Jan & Dean, 1959-62; recorded as vocalist Dore Alpert for RCA, 1960; formed A&M Records with business partner Jerry Moss and released first single, "The Lonely Bull," 1962; recorded 32 albums as solo artist and with Tijuana Brass, 1963-93; co-owner and executive, A&M Records, 1962-89; founded Herb Alpert Foundation, c. 1985; co-owner and executive, Rondor Records, 1993--; founded Almo Sounds, 1994; Shout Factory announced extensive reissue project called the "Herb Alpert Signature Series" in 2004, to conclude in 2006. Military service: U.S. Army.
Herb Alpert's Awards
Seven Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year, 1965, and Best Non-Jazz Instrumental, 1965, for "A Taste of Honey"; Best Non-Jazz Instrumental, 1966, for "What Now My Love"; and Best Pop Instrumental Performance, for "Rise," 1979; Billboard Latin Music Awards, Lifetime Achievement Award, 1997.
- Selected discography
- The Lonely Bull A&M, 1962; reissued, Shout! Factory, 2005.
- Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass, Volume 2 A&M, 1964.
- South of the Border A&M, 1964; reissued, Shout! Factory, 2005.
- Whipped Cream & Other Delights A&M, 1965; reissued, Shout! Factory, 2005.
- Going Places A&M, 1965.
- What Now My Love A&M, 1966.
- S.R.O. A&M, 1966.
- Sounds Like A&M, 1967.
- Herb Alpert's Ninth A&M, 1967.
- The Beat of the Brass A&M, 1968.
- Warm A&M, 1969.
- Greatest Hits A&M, 1970.
- Solid Brass A&M, 1972.
- Coney Island A&M, 1975.
- Herb Alpert/Hugh Masakela A&M, 1978.
- Rise A&M, 1979.
- Magic Man A&M, 1981.
- Fandango A&M, 1982.
- Bullish A&M, 1984.
- Keep Your Eye on Me A&M, 1987.
- My Abstract Heart A&M, 1989.
- North on South St. A&M, 1991.
- Midnight Sun A&M, 1992.
- Second Wind Almo Sounds, 1996.
- Passion Dance Almo Sounds, 1997.
- Colors Almo Sounds, 1999.
- Lost Treasures Shout! Factory, 2005.
- Billboard, May 1, 1993; February 15, 1997; October 30, 1999; August 12, 2000; December 4, 2004.
- Daily Variety, August 3, 1988; April 26, 1993; June 21, 1993; March 12, 2003.
- Down Beat, September 1991; October 1992; February 1993.
- Entertainment Weekly, May 3, 1996.
- Forbes, October 31, 1988.
- Newsweek, April 25, 1966; August 5, 1968.
- People, October 24, 1988.
- Rolling Stone, May 16, 1991; August 8, 1991.
- Time, November 12, 1965; July 19, 1968.
- "Almo Sounds," A&M Records, http://www.onamrecords.com/Almo_Sounds.html (March 14, 2005).
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from A&M Records publicity material, 1989, 1991, and 1992.