Herb Alpert Biography
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). Alpert's musical accomplishments include five number one hits, twenty-eight albums on the Billboard charts, eight Grammy Awards, fourteen Platinum albums and fifteen Gold albums. As of 1996, Alpert had sold 72 million albums worldwide.
Alpert 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 in the Army, Alpert tried his hand at acting, but eventually settled on pursuing 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.
In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Lou Adler, another burgeoning musician, as a songwriter for Keen Records. A number of songs written or co-written by Alpert during the following two years became top twenty hits, including "Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean, "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke, and "Alley-Oop" by Dante and The Evergreens. In 1960, Alpert began his recording career as a vocalist at RCA Records under the name of Dore Alpert, where he recorded an early vocal, "Tell it to the Birds".
Alpert set up a small recording studio in his garage and was overdubbing with a tune called "Twinkle Star" when, during a visit to Tijuana, Mexico, he happened to hear a mariachi band while attending a bullfight. Following the experience, Alpert recalled that he was "inspired to find a way to musically express what [he] felt while watching the wild responses of the crowd, and hearing the brass musicians introducing each new event with rousing fanfare." Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune, mixed in crowd cheers and other noises to create ambience, and renamed the song, "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, due to 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 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.
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 Alpert the only solo artist ever to hit #1 on the Billboard charts with both vocal and instrumental pieces. The song "Route 101" peaked at number 37 in Billboard in August of 1982.
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 second and current wife), and Janet Jackson (featured vocalist on his 1987 hit single "Diamonds"). These working relationships have allowed Alpert to become one of only a handful of artists to place singles in the Top 10 in at least three different decades ('60s, '70s, and '80s).
He also got the chance to branch out successfully to the R&B world with hit 1987 album Keep Your Eye On Me, thanks to legendary producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
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.
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 and helps fund the PBS series "Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason."
Although he has not released an album of new material since 1999's "Colours", he is actively overseeing the reissue of his music library. In 2000, Alpert bought back the rights to his music from Universal Music (current owners of A&M Records), and began remixing 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.