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Herb Alpert

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Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' debut album, The Lonely Bull.  A&M, 1962
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass' debut album, The Lonely Bull. A&M, 1962

Herb Alpert (born March 31, 1935 in Los Angeles, California) is an American musician most associated with the Tijuana Brass, a now-defunct brass band of which he was leader. He is also famous for being a recording industry executive he is the "A" of A&M Records (a recording label he and then partner Jerry Moss founded and eventually sold).

Early life and career

He began trumpet lessons at about the age of 8 and played at dances as a teenager. After graduating from Fairfax High School in 1955, he joined the U.S. Army and frequently performed at military ceremonies. After his service to the Army, he tried his hand at acting, but decided to pursue a career in music. While attending the University of Southern California in the 1950s, he was a member of the USC Trojan Marching Band for 2 years.

At the dawn of his music career, Alpert co-wrote (along with Lou Adler) early rock and roll hits such as "Wonderful World." His recording career began at RCA Records under the name of Dore Alpert. He also produced Dante & the Evergreens hit "Alley Oop" and Jan & Dean. In 1962, Alpert and his business partner Jerry Moss founded their record label, A&M Records.

The Tijuana Brass Years

Alpert set up a small recording studio in his garage and was playing around with overdubbing with a tune called "Twinkle Star" when he happened to hear a mariachi band in Tijuana. Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune and mixed in crowd cheers and other noises to suggest a bull fight, and renamed the tune, "The Lonely Bull." 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 Top Ten hit in 1963. He followed up quickly with an album of "The Lonely Bull" and other titles.

Alpert released his debut album, The Lonely Bull by Herb Alpert's Tijuana Brass. The Tijuana Brass were studio musicians. The title cut reached #6 on the Billboard Pop Singles Chart. This was also A&M's first album> (the original number was 101), but was recorded at Conway Records.

By the end of 1964, a growing demand for live appearances by the Tijuana Brass, Alpert auditioned and hired a team of crack session men. No one in Alpert's band (or Wechter's) was actually Hispanic. Alpert used to tell his audiences that his group consisted of "Three pastramis, two bagels, and an American cheese": John Pisano (electric guitar); Lou Pagani (piano); Nick Ceroli (drums); Pat Senatore (bass guitar); Tonni Kalash (trumpet); Herb Alpert (trumpet and vocal); Bob Edmondson (trombone). The band debuted in 1965 and quickly became one of the highest-paid acts then performing, having put together a complete revue that included choreographed moves and comic routines written by Bill ("Jose Jimenez") Dana.

The Tijuana Brass's success helped spawn other Latin acts, notably Julius Wechter (long-time friend of Alpert's and the marimba player for the Brass) and the Baja Marimba Band, and the profits allowed A&M to begin building a repertoire of artists like Chris Montez and The Sandpipers.

What Now My Love
What Now My Love

An album or two each year would be released throughout the 1960s. The fortune of Alpert's style began with the national exposure The Clark Gum Company gave one of his tunes in 1964, titled "The Mexican Shuffle" (which was retitled "The Teaberry Shuffle" for the television ads). In 1965, Alpert released two albums, Whipped Cream (and Other Delights) and Going Places. Whipped Cream sold over 6 million copies in the United States and the album cover of is considered a classic. It featured model Dolores Erickson wearing chiffon and shaving cream. In concerts, when about to play the song, Alpert would tell the audience, "Sorry, we can't play the cover for you." The art was parodied by several groups including onetime A&M band Soul Asylum. The singles included the title cut, "Lollipops and Roses", and " A Taste of Honey", the latter won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Going Places produced four more singles "Tijuana Taxi", "Spanish Flea", "Third Man Theme", and "Zorba the Greek".

Many of the tracks from Whipped Cream and Going Places received a great deal of airplay, and still do at least on the Game Show Network due to their frequent use as incidental music in The Dating Game, notably Whipped Cream Spanish Flea andLollipops and Roses. While it is easy to mention singles, Alpert's albums outsold and outperformed his singles on the charts.

Alpert and the Tijuana Brass won six Grammy awards and 15 of their albums went gold, 14 platinum. In 1966, his music outsold The Beatles by two-to-one - over 13 million recordings. That same year, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized that Alpert set a new record by placing five albums simultaneously on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, an accomplishment that has never been repeated. In April of that year, four of those albums were in the Top 10 simultaneously.

Alpert's only number one single during this period was a solo effort: This Guy's in Love With You (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), featuring a rare vocal. Alpert sang this to his first wife in a 1968 CBS Television special titled Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The sequence was taped on the beach in Malibu. The song was not intended to be released, but after it was used in the television special, thousands of telephone calls to CBS asking about it, convinced label owner Alpert to release it as a single, two days after the show aired. Alpert's vocal skills were limited, but this song also had a limited range, and it worked for him. The song debuted in April 1968, and topped the charts for four weeks. Initially dismissed by the critical cognoscenti and "hip" music-lovers as strictly a housewife's favourite, Alpert's unusually expressive recording of This Guy's in Love With You is now regarded as one of the momumental ballads in pop.

Life after the Brass

Alpert disbanded the Tijuana Brass in 1969, but released another album by the group in 1971. In 1973, with some of the original Tijuana Brass members and some new members he formed a group called the T.J.B. This new version of the Brass released two albums in 1974 and 1975 and toured. Alpert reconvened a third version of the Brass in 1984 after being invited to perform for the Olympic Games athletes at the Los Angeles Summer Games. The invitation led to the Bullish album and tour.

In the 1970s, 80s and 90s Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career. He had his biggest instrumental hit, Rise (from the album of the same name), which went number one in October of 1979 and won a Grammy Award and was later sampled in the 1997 rap song 'Hypnotize' by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. It also made him the only artist ever to hit #1 on the Billboard charts with both vocal and instrumental pieces.

From 1962 through 1992 Alpert signed artists to A&M Records and produced records. Among the notable artists he worked with personally are Chris Montez, The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, Bill Medley, Lani Hall (Alpert's wife), and Janet Jackson (featured vocalist on his 1987 hit single "Diamonds").

Alpert and A&M Records partner Jerry Moss received a Grammy Trustees Award in 1997 for their lifetime achievements in the recording industry as executives.

For his contribution to the recording industry, Herb Alpert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6929 Hollywood Blvd. Moss also has a star on the Walk of Fame.

Alpert and Jerry Moss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006 as non-performer lifetime achievers for their work at A&M.

Today

Alpert continues to play his trumpet and devotes time to his second career as an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor with shows around the United States, as a Broadway theatre producer. His production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America won a Tony award.

In the 1980s he created The Herb Alpert Foundation and The Alpert Awards in the Arts with The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). The Foundation supports youth and arts education as well as environmental issues.

Although he has not released an album of new material since 1999's "Colours", he is actively overseeing the reissue of his music catalog. In 2000, Alpert bought back the rights to his music from Universal Music (current owners of A&M Records), and began remix and remastering his albums for a CD reissue. In 2005, Shout! Factory began distributing digitally remastered versions of Alpert's A&M Records output, including a new album consisting of unreleased material from Alpert's Tijuana Brass.

He continues to be a guest artist for friends like Gato Barbieri, Rita Coolidge, Jim Brickman, Brian Culbertson and David Lanz.

Alpert was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006 alongside Jerry Moss for cofounding A&M Records.

Discography

Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass

  • The Lonely Bull (1962) LP-101/SP-4101*
  • Volume 2 (1963) LP-103/SP-4103*
  • South of the Border (1964) LP-108/SP-4108*
  • Whipped Cream & Other Delights (1965) LP-110/SP-4110*
  • Going Places (1965) LP-112/SP-4112*
  • What Now My Love (1966) LP-114/SP-4114*
  • S.R.O. (1966) LP-119/SP-4119*
  • Sounds Like... (1967) LP-124/SP-4124*
  • Herb Alpert's Ninth (1967) LP-134/SP-4134*
  • The Beat of the Brass (1968) SP-4146 (From this point, albums were issued in Stereo only)
  • The Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass Christmas Album (1968) SP-4166; Reissued as SP-3113
  • Warm (1969) SP-4190
  • Greatest Hits (1970) SP-4245
  • The Brass Are Coming (1969) SP-4228
  • Summertime (1971)
  • Solid Brass (compilation) (1972) SP-4341
  • Foursider (compilation) (1973) SP-3521
  • You Smile - The Song Begins (1974) SP-3620
  • Coney Island (1975) SP-4521
  • Greatest Hits Vol. 2 (compilation) (1977)
  • Bullish (1984)
  • Classics Volume 1 (compilation) (1986) CD-2501
  • Lost Treasures (2005)
  • Whipped Cream & Other Delights Rewhipped (2006)

*Stereo

Herb Alpert

  • Just You and Me (1976)
  • Herb Alpert/Hugh Masekela (1978)
  • Main Event Live! (1978)
  • Rise (1979)
  • Beyond (1980)
  • Magic Man (1981)
  • Fandango (1982)
  • Blow Your Own Horn (1983)
  • Wild Romance (1985)
  • Classics Volume 1 (1987)
  • Keep Your Eye On Me (1987)
  • Under a Spanish Moon (1988)
  • My Abstract Heart (1989)
  • North on South St. {1991)
  • Midnight Sun (1992)
  • Second Wind (1996)
  • Passion Dance (1997)

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