Herb Alpert

  • Jazz trumpeter and composer and record industry executive born in 1935 in Los Angeles California.
  • His mother taught the violin, and his father played the mandolin, so they encouraged their children to play musical instruments. Alpert learned the trumpet at the age of 8, and played at high school dances, and eventually in the Army at military ceremonies. After the Army, he was a member of the University of Southern California Marching Band.
  • In 1957, he joined a record company as a songwriter. Over the next 2 years, he wrote or co-wrote songs for Sam Cooke and Jan & Dean that became hits. In 1960, he began recording as a vocalist, using the name Dore Alpert. The following year, he formed his own record company with partner Jerry Moss, naming it Carnival Records, and he recorded the song Tell It To The Birds. Alpert and Moss soon learned that there was another company named Carnival Records, so they changed the name of their label to A&M Records. A&M went on the become a force in the record industry, with hundreds of major artists, contracting with some of the biggest names in music – examples include the Police, Joe Cocker, Carpenters, Styx, Liza Minnelli, Cat Stevens, The Go-Go’s, Peter Frampton, and many more. The label survived until 1999, when it was acquired.
  • In 1962, Alpert was visiting Tijuana Mexico, attending a bull fight. He heard a mariachi band play to introduce each event, and he was inspired to incorporate the mariachi style into a song he was working on. He mixed in cheering and other crowd noise, and produced a single called The Lonely Bull. He released it, and it peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. He quickly put together an album with the same name, calling himself Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. For The Lonely Bull, the Tijuana Brass was just Alpert playing the trumpet and overdubbing the recording so that it sounded like there were multiple trumpets playing. As the album needed more musicians, he utilized session musicians in Los Angeles, known as The Wrecking Crew.
  • Nearly all of the works by Alpert and the Tijuana Brass were instrumentals – no vocals in most of their music.
  • By 1964, after 2 more albums were released along with 4 singles (which barely made the charts), the demand for him to perform live concerts was great, so he hired 6 musicians, and Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass was in order. They debuted in 1965 and they became one of the most popular acts of the day.
  • From 1965 to 1969, they released 2 albums each year, with 5 of them reaching #1 on the Billboard album chart. On the Adult Contemporary chart, they had 19 songs in the top 10, with 4 songs hitting #1 – A Taste of Honey (which won 3 Grammy awards, including Record of the Year), Casino Royale, A Banda and This Guy’s In Love With You. The last of these also hit #1 on the Hot 100 chart, and it included a vocal part with Alpert singing the lead. Another song, What Now My Love, peaked at #2 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and won 2 more Grammy awards for Alpert.
  • In 1966, Alpert sold more than 13 million albums – greater than the Beatles – and he had 5 albums simultaneously in the top 20 of the Billboard Pop Album chart – this achievement has never again been equaled. Ultimately, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass had 14 platinum certified albums.
  • The group was popular on TV variety shows and they were featured in several specials. Many of their songs were used for jingles for commercials of various products, and 3 songs were used as incidental music on the TV game show The Dating Game. 
  • The group disbanded in 1969, but in 1971 they reformed, and albums were released in 1971, 1974 and 1975. Alpert then focused on a solo career, and in 1979 he had his biggest instrumental hit, Rise. The song was a surprise success, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 chart. Alpert is the only artist ever to have #1 songs as both a vocalist and an instrumentalist. The song also won Alpert his sixth Grammy award.
  • In the 80s, Alpert continued to release albums, with 11 studio albums released with new music. He branched into R&B music during this time, and in 1987, the song Diamonds, with Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith on vocals, reached #1 on the R&B chart, and #5 on the Hot 100 chart. Many more albums have followed in the 90s, 00s and 10s. In 2013, he released an album titled Steppin’ Out which was awarded a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album – Alpert was 78 years old at the time.
  • Alpert received a Grammy Trustees Award in 1997 for lifetime achievement as an executive, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007. He has 3 songs in the Grammy Hall of Fame – The Lonely Bull, A Taste of Honey and Herb Alpert Presents Sergio Mendes & Brazil ’66. He was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an executive in 2006, along with Jerry Moss. He received a 2012 National Medal of Arts from President Obama.
  • An amazing career. In addition to his own artistry, thousands of others in the music industry can thank Herb Alpert for helping them be successful. Here’s a video clip of one of his 60s hits, A Taste Of Honey. Hearing this for the first time in many years – what memories of being a kid in the 60s! This was huge back then!

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