Herb Alpert

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 as a recording industry executive — he is the "A" of A&M Records.


Early life and career

He began trumpet lessons at about the age of 8 and played at dances as a teenager. After high school, 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) many early rock and roll hits such as "Wonderful World" and "Only Sixteen".

His recording career began at RCA under the name of Dore Alpert. He later started a short-lived band, Dante & the Evergreens. Shortly after working with Jan & Dean, Alpert and business partner Jerry Moss decided to start a record label of their own, A&M Records.

The Tijuana Brass Years

Shortly after A&M's founding, Alpert formed a new group, one with a Latin flavor. This group was the Tijuana Brass. In 1962, Alpert and the Brass released their debut album, The Lonely Bull (the title cut became a Top Ten hit). This was literally A&M's first album (the original number was 101), and was recorded in a converted garage. It was Alpert's groundbreaking musical flavor created by this album that catapulted Latino-style pop into the public eye.

The TJB's success helped spawn other Latin acts, notably Julius Wechter (initially a session player in The Lonely Bull) and his Baja Marimba Band. Ironically, no one one in Alpert's band (or Wechter's either) was actually Hispanic. Alpert used to tell his audiences that his group (as of the late 60s) consisted of "Three pastramis, two bagels, and an American cheese".

That is: 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).

Subsequent albums followed the tradition of the first, Whipped Cream and Other Delights, for example. The album cover of Whipped Cream featured a seductive-looking young woman (Dolores Erickson) wearing a generous quantity of whipped cream...and apparently nothing else. In concerts, when about to play the song, Herb Alpert would tell the audience, "Sorry, we can't play the cover for you!" The famous cover was eventually parodied by the less-than-sultry Weird Al Yankovic and the alternative group Soul Asylum.

Other albums followed, such as S.R.O., and even a brassy interpretation of classical music, Herb Alpert's Ninth.

But it was 1965's Going Places that really propelled Alpert and the Brass to stardom. The seminal album, what music critics have called his greatest work, yielded the hit singles "Tijuana Taxi", "Spanish Flea", "Third Man Theme", and "Zorba the Greek".

Much of the music 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 in The Dating Game, notably Whipped Cream, Spanish Flea and Lollipops and Roses.

With the Tijuana Brass, Alpert won six Grammy awards, and of their albums fifteen have gone gold and fourteen platinum. At one point his music outsold that of the Beatles by two to one. In 1966, he was recognized (with the Brass) in the Guinness Book of World Records for having five albums in the Top 20 of the Billboard album charts simultaneously, an unprecedented feat. In April of that year, four of those albums were in the Top 10 simultaneously.

His only Number One song with the Brass was "This Guy's in Love With You", featuring a rare vocal turn by Alpert himself. Alpert's vocal skills were limited, but this song also had a limited range, and it worked for him. The song debuted in June 1968, and topped the charts for four weeks. Other artists soon covered it, a sure sign of its viability as a song.

Life after the Brass

In 1971, Alpert and the Brass split, but in the intervening decades have recorded together only on occasion. Meanwhile, Alpert (through his A&M label) propelled the careers of other artists, such as The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, Cat Stevens, Joe Cocker, Styx, The Police, Sting, and Janet Jackson (with whom he did a duet in 1987 with "Diamonds").

In the late 1970s, Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career, which resulted in his biggest hit, "Rise" (from the album of the same name), which went number one in October of 1979, and a Grammy Award. Along with 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.


Currently, his creative energies are focused on abstract expressionist painting, and Broadway theater. His production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America won a Tony award. He also funds the Herb Alpert Foundation for artistic training, and has provided funding for the culture jamming activists known as the Yesmen.

Although he is no longer performing, he is very much involved in the reissue of his albums. In 2004, Alpert (through his new company, Almo Properties) bought back the rights to his music library from Universal Music (current owners of A&M Records), and began remixing and remastering his albums for CD reissue. In 2005, Shout! Factory began distributing digitally remastered versions of Alpert's A&M output, including a "new" album consisting of outtakes from Alpert's Tijuana Brass sessions from their heyday.

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