Alpert's musical accomplishments include five No. 1 albums and 28 albums total on the Billboard Album chart, nine Grammy Awards, fourteen platinum albums, and fifteen gold albums. Alpert has sold 72 million records worldwide. Alpert is the only recording artist 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).
Herb Alpert was born and raised in the Boyle Heights section of Eastside Los Angeles, California, the son of Tillie (née Goldberg) and Louis Alpert. His family was Jewish, and had come to the U.S. from Radomyshl (in present-day Ukraine) and Romania. His father, although a tailor by trade, was also a talented mandolin player. His mother taught violin at a young age. His older brother David was a talented young drummer. Alpert himself 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 "Drummer on Mt. Sinai" in the film The Ten Commandments. In 1962, he had an uncredited part in a scene in the film Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation where he played (and performed a solo) in a dance band.
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, Alpert 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.
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 ("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. Wechter contributed a number of the Brass's original songs, usually at least one per album—along with Alpert friends Sol Lake and Ervan "Bud" Coleman.
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 the 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 unchallenging technical demands suited him. The single debuted in May 1968, topped the national chart for four weeks and ranked among the year's biggest hits. Initially regarded by the critical cognoscenti and 'hip' music-lovers of the day as strictly an easy-listening chart hit, Alpert's unusually expressive recording of "This Guy's in Love with You" now enjoys appeal well beyond the so-called mainstream. In 1996, at London's Royal Festival Hall, Noel Gallagher (of British rock band Oasis) performed the song with Burt Bacharach.
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 / 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. It was the last non-vocal rendition of the national anthem at the Super Bowl to date.
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 wife on the song "Dreamer". It marked the first time Alpert, Mendes, and Hall had performed together on the same song.
In 2007, Alpert and his wife (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. His most recent release is Human Nature, nominated for a 2017 Grammy Award, Best Pop Instrumental Album.
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 both 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.
Alpert and Moss received a Grammy Trustees Award in 1997, for their lifetime achievements in the recording industry as executives and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
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. 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.
Alpert has worked as a Broadway theatre producer, with his production of Tony Kushner's Angels in America winning a Tony Award.
Alpert was awarded Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award by Society of Singers in 2009.
Alpert was awarded one of the 2012 National Medal of Arts awards by President and Mrs. Obama on Wednesday, July 10, 2013, in the White House's East Room.
Alpert won a Grammy Award on January 26, 2014 for Best Pop Instrumental Album for his work on Steppin' Out.
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 the late 1980s Alpert tried his hand in the fragrance industry. He started H. Alpert and Co., a short lived perfume company. The company sold perfume at higher end department stores like Nordstrom. H. Alpert and Co. launched with two scents; Listen and Listen for men. Alpert compared perfume to music, with high and low notes.
Since December 1973, Alpert has been married to recording artist Lani Hall, who is one of the singers of the Sérgio Mendes band Brasil '66, and the singer of the hit "Never Say Never Again", of the James Bond movie of the same name. They have one daughter, actress Aria Alpert.
He was previously married to Sharon Mae Lubin from 1956 to 1971. They had two children together: daughter, Eden, and son, Dore.
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." (This was also the pivotal episode where Maxwell and 99 express their love for each other & in fact get engaged). 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 phenomenal popularity of the Tijuana Brass in the 1960s spawned many imitation groups on cheaply produced drugstore records, such as the Mexicali Brass, Mariachi Brass, Guadalajara Brass, Bullfight Brass, Pert Lapert and his Iguana Brass, etc. and several comic parodies as well, including the Frivolous Five's "Sour Cream and Other Delights", Bob Booker and George Foster's production "Al Tijuana's 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.This section needs to be expanded with Canadian chart peaks
(All albums are on A&M Records and are listed with the original catalog numbers (unless otherwise indicated), followed by their peak positions on the Billboard charts)