His career as a musician includes recording five No. 1 albums and 28 albums on the Billboard magazine album chart, fourteen platinum albums, fifteen gold albums, and nine Grammy Awards. He has sold 72 million records worldwide. Alpert is the only musician to hit No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart as both a vocalist ("This Guy's in Love with You", 1968) and an instrumentalist ("Rise", 1979).
Early life and career
Herb Alpert was born and raised in the Boyle Heights section of Eastside Los Angeles, California, the son of Tillie (née Goldberg) and Louis Leib Alpert. His parents were Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from Radomyshl (in present-day Ukraine) and Romania.
Alpert was born into a family of musicians. His father, although a tailor by trade, was also a talented mandolin player. His mother taught violin at a young age, and his older brother, David, was a talented young drummer. Herb began trumpet lessons at the age of eight and played at dances as a teenager. Acquiring an early wire recorder in high school, he experimented on this crude equipment. After graduating from Fairfax High School in 1952, he joined the United States 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 two years. In 1956, he appeared in the uncredited role as "Drummer on Mt. Sinai" in The Ten Commandments.
In 1957 Alpert teamed up with Rob Weerts, another burgeoning lyricist, as a songwriter for Keen Records. A number of songs written or co-written by Alpert during the following two years became Top 20 hits, including "Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean and "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke. In 1960, he began his recording career as a vocalist at Dot Records under the name of Dore Alpert. "Tell It to the Birds" was recorded as the first release on the Alpert & Moss label Carnival Records. When Alpert and Moss found that there was prior usage of the Carnival name, they renamed the label A&M Records.
The Tijuana Brass years
Alpert set up a small recording studio in his garage and had been overdubbing a tune called "Twinkle Star", written by Sol Lake, who would eventually write many of the Brass's original tunes. During a visit to Tijuana, Mexico, Alpert happened to hear a mariachi band while attending a bullfight. Following the experience, Alpert recalled that he was inspired to find a way to express musically 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 for ambience, and renamed the song "The Lonely Bull".
He personally funded the production of the record as a single, and it spread through radio DJs until it caught on and became a Top 10 hit in the Fall of 1962. He followed up quickly with his debut album, The Lonely Bull by "Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass". Originally the Tijuana Brass was just Alpert overdubbing his own trumpet, slightly out of sync. The title cut reached No. 6 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. This was A&M's first album with the original release number being #101, although it was recorded at Conway Records. For this album and subsequent releases, Alpert recorded with the group of L.A. session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, whom he holds in high regard.
By the end of 1964, because of a growing demand for live appearances by the Tijuana Brass, Alpert auditioned and hired a team of crack session men. Alpert used to tell his audiences that his group consisted of "Four lasagnas, 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); and Bob Edmondson (trombone). The band debuted in 1965, and 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 ("José Jiménez") Dana.
An album or two was released each year throughout the 1960s. Alpert's band was featured in several TV specials, each one usually centered on visual interpretations of the songs from their latest album—essentially an early type of music videos later made famous by MTV. The first Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass special, sponsored by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, aired on April 24, 1967 on CBS. Alpert's style achieved enormous popularity with the national exposure The Clark Gum Company gave to one of his recordings in 1964, a Sol Lake number titled "The Mexican Shuffle" (which was retitled "The Teaberry Shuffle" for the television advertisements).
In 1965, Alpert released two albums, Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Going Places. Whipped Cream sold over 6 million copies in the United States. The album cover featured model Dolores Erickson wearing only what appeared to be whipped cream. In reality, Erickson was wearing a white blanket over which were scattered artfully placed daubs of shaving cream—real whipped cream would have melted under the heat of the studio lights (although the cream on her finger was real). 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 one-time A&M band Soul Asylum and by comedian Pat Cooper for his album Spaghetti Sauce and Other Delights. 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". "Tijuana Taxi" and "Spanish Flea" would be used in the 1966 Academy Award-winning animated short A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature.
The Brass covered the Bert Kaempfert tune "Happy Trumpeter", retitling it "Magic Trumpet". Alpert's rendition contained a bar that coincided with a Schlitz beer tune, "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer." ("The Maltese Melody" was another Alpert cover of a Kaempfert original.) Another commercial use was a tune called "El Garbanzo", which was featured in Sunoco ads ("They're movin', they're movin', people in the know, they're movin' to Sunoco"). In 1967, the Tijuana Brass performed Burt Bacharach's title cut to the first movie version of Casino Royale.
Many of the tracks from Whipped Cream and Going Places received a great deal of airplay; they are frequently used as incidental music on The Dating Game, notably the tracks "Whipped Cream", "Spanish Flea", and "Lollipops and Roses". Despite the popularity of his singles, Alpert's albums outsold and outperformed them on the charts. Alpert and the Tijuana Brass won six Grammy Awards. Fifteen of their albums won gold discs, and fourteen won platinum discs. From the week ending October 16, 1965 through the week ending April 29, 1967, the group had at least one album in the Top 10, marking 81 consecutive weeks. For many of these weeks, more than one album registered in the Top 10. In 1966, over 13 million Alpert recordings were sold, outselling the Beatles. That same year, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized that Alpert set a new record by placing five albums simultaneously in the Top 20 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, an accomplishment that has never been repeated. In the first week of April of that year, four of those albums were in the Top 10, simultaneously—matching a mark first set by The Kingston Trio in late 1959.
Alpert's only No. 1 single during this period, and the first No. 1 hit for his A&M label, was a solo effort: "This Guy's in Love with You" (written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David), featuring a rare vocal. Alpert sang it to his first wife in a 1968 CBS Television special titled Beat of the Brass. The sequence was filmed on the beach in Malibu. The song was not intended to be released, but after it was used in the television special, allegedly thousands of telephone calls to CBS asking about it convinced Alpert to release it as a single, two days after the show aired. Although Alpert's vocal skills and range were limited, the song's technical demands suited him.
Post-Brass musical career
Alpert disbanded the Tijuana Brass in 1969, then 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 Herb Alpert and 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, 1980s, and 1990s, Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career. In 1979, he had his biggest instrumental hit, "Rise" (from the album of the same name), which went to No. 1 in October 1979 and won a Grammy Award. It was later sampled in the 1997 No. 1 rap song, "Hypnotize" by Notorious B.I.G. "Rise" was written by Alpert's nephew, Randy "Badazz" Alpert and his friend Andy Armer. "Rise" made Alpert the only artist ever to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart with both a vocal piece and an instrumental piece. Another Randy "Badazz" Alpert / Andy Armer song, "Rotation", hit No. 30 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart. The song "Route 101" off the Fandango album peaked at No. 37 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart in August 1982. In 1987, Alpert branched out successfully to the R&B world with the hit album, Keep Your Eye on Me, teaming up with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on "Diamonds" and "Making Love in the Rain" featuring vocals by Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith.
Alpert performed "The Star-Spangled Banner" prior to Super Bowl XXII in San Diego, California in January 1988. As of 2019, it stands as the most recent non-vocal rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
He has continued to be a guest artist for artists including Gato Barbieri, Rita Coolidge, Jim Brickman, Brian Culbertson, and David Lanz, and in 1985, Alpert performed the trumpet solo on the song "Rat in Mi Kitchen" from the album of the same name by English reggae band and A&M recording artists UB40. Apart from the reissues, the Christmas Album continues to be available every year during the holiday season. On Sérgio Mendes' 2008 album Encanto, Alpert performed trumpet solos backing lead vocals by his second wife Lani Hall, a singer for Mendes in the 1960s, on the song "Dreamer". It marked the first time Alpert, Mendes, and Hall had performed together on the same song.
In 2007, Alpert and Lani Hall began performing and recording with a new band made up of Bill Cantos on keyboards, Hussain Jiffry on bass, and Michael Shapiro on drums. Eventually they signed with Concord Records and released a live album in the summer of 2009, Anything Goes, Alpert's first release of new material since 1999's Herb Alpert and Colors. They followed it up with a studio album, I Feel You, released in February 2011. Both albums feature eclectic jazz renditions of pop classics along with a handful of original compositions. In 2013, he released Steppin' Out, which won a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental Album. Next came In The Mood (2014) and Come Fly With Me (2015), which peaked at #7 on Billboard's Top Jazz Albums chart. Also, Alpert formed a new label called "Herb Alpert Presents" in order to release his catalog reissues and his new works. The first reissues were in November 2015 with the Tijuana Brass' Whipped Cream & Other Delights and Christmas Album. Reissues of most of the other Tijuana Brass albums came in September 2016, along with another new album Human Nature, which was nominated for a 2017 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Album. In 2017 he released Music, Vol. 1, and a second Christmas Album called The Christmas Wish, which featured elaborate arrangements with symphony orchestra and choir.
In October 2018 Alpert released Music Volume 3: Herb Alpert Reimagines the Tijuana Brass, an album featuring updated versions of 12 classic TJB songs. The majority of the tracklist was culled from the group's first seven albums. A single from the album, Wade in the Water, was released in July 2018.
A&M Records and Almo Sounds
From 1962 through 1992 Alpert signed artists to A&M Records and produced records. He discovered the West Coast band We Five. Among the notable artists he worked with personally are Chris Montez, The Carpenters, Sérgio Mendes and Brasil '66, Bill Medley, Lani Hall (Alpert's second and current wife), Liza Minnelli and Janet Jackson (featured vocalist on his 1987 hit single "Diamonds"). These working relationships allowed Alpert to place singles in the Top 10 in three different decades (1960s, 1970s, and 1980s).
Alpert and A&M Records partner Jerry Moss agreed in 1987 to sell A&M to PolyGram Records for a reported $500 million. Both would continue to manage the label until 1993, when they left because of frustrations with PolyGram's constant pressure to force the label to fit into its corporate culture. In 1998, Alpert and Moss sued PolyGram for breach of the integrity clause, eventually settling for an additional $200 million payment.
Alpert and Moss then expanded their Almo Sounds music publishing company to produce records as well, primarily as a vehicle for Alpert's music. Almo Sounds imitates the former company culture embraced by Alpert and Moss when they first started A&M.
In 2000, Alpert acquired the rights to his music from Universal Music (current owners of A&M Records) in a legal settlement and began remastering his albums for compact disc reissue. In 2005, Shout! Factory began distributing digitally remastered versions of Alpert's A&M output. The reissues included all of the pre-1969 albums, 1979's Rise, and also included a new album, Lost Treasures, consisting of unreleased material from Alpert's Tijuana Brass years. In the spring of 2006, a remixed version of the Whipped Cream album, entitled Whipped Cream and Other Delights: Re-Whipped was released and climbed to No. 5 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.
In 2012, Shout! Factory re-released 1982's Fandango on CD.
Alpert has a second career as an abstract expressionist painter and sculptor with group and solo exhibitions around the United States and Europe. The sculpture exhibition "Herb Alpert: Black Totems", on display at ACE Gallery, Beverly Hills, February through September 2010, brought media attention to his visual work. His 2013 exhibition in exhibition Santa Monica, California included both abstract paintings and large totemlike sculptures.
Awards and honors
In May 2000, Alpert was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Alpert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6929 Hollywood Blvd in 1977. Moss also has a star on the Walk of Fame. Alpert and Moss were also 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 received the "El Premio Billboard" for his contributions to Latin music at the 1997 Billboard Latin Music Awards.
In the 1980s Alpert 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 and later Moyers & Company. Alpert and his wife donated $30 million to University of California, Los Angeles in 2007, to form and endow the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music as part of the restructured UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture. He gave $24 million, which included $15 million from April 2008, to CalArts for its music curricula, and provided funding for the culture jamming activists The Yes Men. In 2012, the Foundation gave a grant of more than $5 million to the Harlem School of the Arts, which allowed the school to retire its debt, restore its endowment, and create a scholarship program for needy students; in 2013, the school's building was renamed the Herb Alpert Center. In 2016, his foundation also made a $10.1 million donation to Los Angeles City College that will provide all music majors at the school with a tuition-free education, beginning in fall of 2017. This was the largest gift to an individual community college in the history of Southern California, and the second-largest gift in the history of the state. In 2020, Alpert bestowed an additional $9.7 million on the Harlem School of the Arts to upgrade its facility. With his siblings he founded the Louis and Tillie Alpert Music Center in Jerusalem, which brings together both Arab and Jewish Students.
In the late 1980s, Alpert started H. Alpert and Co., a short-lived perfume company, which sold through higher-end department stores like Nordstrom. The company launched with two scents, Listen and Listen for Men. Alpert compared perfume to music, with high and low notes.
He is owner of the Vibrato Grill Jazz in the Beverly Glen area of Los Angeles.
Alpert was married to Sharon Mae Lubin from 1956 to 1971. They had two children together: daughter, Eden, and son, Dore.
Since December 1973, Alpert has been married to recording artist Lani Hall, the original lead singer with Sérgio Mendes and Brasil '66, who went on to success as a Latin pop artist in the 1980s. They have one daughter, actress Aria Alpert.
In popular culture
Alpert was referenced in the first show of the fourth season of Get Smart where one of the code signals between Maxwell Smart and his contact was "Herb Alpert takes trumpet lessons from Guy Lombardo." Also, a fifth-season episode parodied the entire group as Max and 99 sought to unmask "Herb Talbot and His Tijuana Tin" as KAOS spies.
The popularity of the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s spawned many imitation groups. TJB member and composer of Spanish Flea, Julius Wechter, had good success between 1962 and the mid 1970s with his Baja Marimba Band, which was under contract by A&M. On the other side there were cheaply produced "drugstore records" by acts such as the Mexicali Brass, Mariachi Brass, Guadalajara Brass, Bullfight Brass, Pert Lapert and his Iguana Brass, and others. There were also several comic parodies, e. g. by the Frivolous Five's "Sour Cream and Other Delights", Bob Booker and George Foster's production "Al Tijuana and His Jewish Brass", and David Seville and the Chipmunks' "Sorry About That, Herb!"
In the music video for Jeff Beck's 1985 single "Ambitious," directed by Jim Yukich, which depicts an array of real-life celebrities and lookalikes auditioning to perform with Beck, Alpert appears at the very end, rushing to the casting director's table and asking, "Am I too late?"
On September 17, 2010, the TV documentary "Legends: Herb Alpert – Tijuana Brass and Other Delights" premiered on BBC4.
- The Lonely Bull (A&M, 1962)
- Volume 2 (A&M, 1963)
- South of the Border (A&M, 1964)
- Whipped Cream & Other Delights (A&M, 1965)
- Going Places (A&M, 1965)
- What Now My Love (A&M, 1966)
- SRO (A&M, 1966)
- Sounds Like... (A&M, 1967)
- Herb Alpert's Ninth (A&M, 1967)
- The Beat of the Brass (A&M, 1968)
- Christmas Album (A&M, 1968)
- Warm (A&M, 1969)
- The Brass Are Comin' (A&M, 1969)
- Greatest Hits (A&M, 1970; compilation)
- Summertime (A&M, 1971)
- Solid Brass (A&M, 1972; compilation)
- Four Sider (A&M, 1973; 2-LP compilation)
- You Smile – The Song Begins (A&M, 1974)
- In Europe (A&M, 1974; Fr / NL compilation)
- Coney Island (A&M, 1975)
- Just You and Me (A&M, 1976)
- Herb Alpert & The T.J.B. Greatest Hits, Vol. 2 (A&M, 1977; compilation)
- Herb Alpert / Hugh Masekela (A&M, 1978)
- Main Event Live with Hugh Masekela (A&M, 1978)
- Rise (A&M, 1979)
- Beyond (A&M, 1980)
- Magic Man (A&M, 1981)
- Fandango (A&M, 1982)
- Blow Your Own Horn (A&M, 1983)
- Bullish (A&M, 1984)
- Wild Romance (A&M, 1985)
- Keep Your Eye on Me (A&M, 1987)
- Under a Spanish Moon (A&M, 1988)
- 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)
- Herb Alpert & Colors (Almo Sounds, 1999)
- Lost Treasures Rare & Unreleased (Shout! Factory, 2005)
- Whipped Cream & Other Delights Re-Whipped (Shout! Factory, 2006)
- Anything Goes [live] with Lani Hall (Concord Jazz, 2009)
- I Feel You with Lani Hall (Concord Jazz, 2011)
- Steppin' Out with Lani Hall (Shout! Factory, 2013)
- In the Mood (Shout! Factory, 2014)
- Come Fly with Me (Herb Alpert Presents, 2015)
- Human Nature (Herb Alpert Presents, 2016)
- Music Volume 1 (Herb Alpert Presents, 2017)
- The Christmas Wish (Herb Alpert Presents, 2017)
- Music Volume 3: Herb Alpert Re-Imagines the Tijuana Brass (Herb Alpert Presents, 2018)
- Over the Rainbow (Herb Alpert Presents, 2019)
- Herb Alpert is ... [3-CD Box Set; compiles 63 songs] (Herb Alpert Presents, 2020)
- 20th century brass instrumentalists
- Herb Alpert: Music for Your Eyes documentary (2003)
- List of artists who reached number one on the Hot 100 (U.S.)
- List of artists who reached number one on the U.S. Dance chart
- List of Number 1 Dance Hits (United States)
- List of number-one hits (United States)
- List of trumpeters
- Cuscuna, Michael and Ruppi, Michel. The Blue Note Label: A Discography. Greenwood Press, Westport, Connecticut 2001.
- Larkin, Colin The Encyclopedia of Popular Music. Third edition. Macmillan, New York, N.Y. 1998.
- Lyman, Darryl. Great Jews in Music. J. D. Publishers, Middle Village, N.Y. 1986.
- Sadie, Stanley, and Hitchcock, H. Wiley (Ed.). The New Grove Dictionary of American Music. Grove's Dictionaries of Music, New York, N.Y. 1986.