Hailing out of Los Angeles, California, Herb Alpert was born and raised in an American-Jewish household from 1935 until joining the Army of the United States in 1952. After his tour of duty was completed with the army, Alpert tried his hand at an acting career, but eventually settled on pursuing music instead. Already skilled with the trumpet since childhood, he first joined the University of California’s Trojan Marching Band for a couple of years, before making an uncredited appearance in the 1956 film, “The Ten Commandments,” that would serve as the official starting point of a musical career that was about to launch Alpert into stardom.
From 1957 until 1960, Herb Alpert was a songwriter for Keen Records, co-writing a couple of charted hits, namely Jan & Dean’s 1959 “Baby Talk,” and 1960’s “Wonderful World” by Sam Cooke. As of 1960 with RCA Records. he started his own recording career, starting off with the stage name of Dore Alpert. In 1961, with Jerry Moss, he co-founded Carnival Records, which would later become A&M Records by 1962 upon learning the name Carnival had already been previously taken.
After a visit to a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico, Alpert found inspiration to include the trumpet into his music recordings after encountering a brass band that would wind up the audience before venturing into the next song during their stage performance. Alpert went to the recording studio and redid his overdubbed version of Sol Lake’s “Twinkle Star” by adding his own trumpet performance, along with the ambiance of a cheering crowd and stadium-related background noise. Upon completion, this personally funded production was distributed among a series of radio DJs until it finally caught on enough and became a recognized hit in 1962. This was immediately followed up with his first studio album, “The Lonely Bull.” This album was not only Alpert’s personal first, but it was also the first officially credited to the A&M Record label.
The popularity of the Tijuana Brass Band to appear in live performances became so great by the end of 1964 that there was the need for Alpert to bring in session musicians through an audition process that would ultimately lead to the 1965 debut of Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Band. Together, there was the release of a few albums, along with television appearances that would catapult their name, not just as nationwide celebrities, but worldwide.
Before the end of 1969, Alpert officially disbanded the Tijuana Brass Band and embarked on a solo recording career where he would release over three decades’ worth of charted hits. His recordings have been associated with a variety of music genres, including funk, jazz, Latin, pop, and R&B, as well as in a series of James Bond films. In total, there are forty-two albums to Herb Alpert’s credit where the first twelve, all before the Tijuana Band was disbanded, became certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. In 1970, his “Greatest Hits” was released, which would become Alpert’s thirteenth Gold-Certified album. After 1979’s “Rise” was recorded and released, it proved to be his most successful album as it achieved Platinum Certification with the RIAA, as well as Silver Certification with the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). 1987’s album, “Keep Your Eye on Me,” also became certified Gold by the RIAA since its release.
Top 10 Herb Alpert Songs
#10 – A Banda (Ah Bahn-da)
“A Banda” is Portuguese for “The Band”, which was originally composed by Chico Buarque and performed in theaters in 1966 before Alpert’s version was recorded and released as an instrumental in 1967. For Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band, it peaked at number one on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, as well as number thirty-five on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#9 – What Now My Love
Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band record and release “What Now My Love” in 1965, which peaked as high as number two on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Chart, which at the time was named the US Billboard Easy Listening Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number twenty-four. This instrumental version’s original roots stem from the French original, “Et Maintenant,” which was recorded and released in 1961.
#8 – Flamingo
“Flamingo” was originally a popular 1940 jazz song performed by Herb Jeffries and the Duke Ellington Orchestra. The 1966 version performed by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band, faired better on the music charts as it placed fifth on US Billboard Adult Contemporary and at number twenty-eight on the US Billboard Hot 100. Flamingo has been covered by a number of artists aside from Alpert, but it’s Alpert’s version that has appeared on two or more notable music charts. In addition to the two American charts, Flamingo also peaked at high as sixteen in Belgium and at number thirty with Australia’s Kent Report.
#7 – Spanish Flea
The popular, vocalized version of “Spanish Flea” was written, recorded, and released by the combined efforts of Julius and Cissy Wechsler after Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band had originally recorded it for the 1965 motion picture, “Going Places.” The blend of Alpert’s trumpet performance, the Latino influence of the Tijuana Trumpet Band, and Wechsler’s vocals saw this song peak as high as third on the UK Singles Chart, as well as fourth on the US Adult Contemporary chart. It’s been a recognized hit at a worldwide level and was also used on The Dating Game, which ran from 1965 until 1973 but has continued to air in syndication on select networks, thus maintaining the song’s popularity since its release.
#6 – Zorba the Greek
For the 1965 album, “Going Places,” Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band record and release “Zorba the Greek,” which is a spinoff from the original single, “Zorba Dance.” Greek composer, Mikis Theodorakis, had Zorba Dance written as part of the soundtrack for the film “Zorba the Greek,” which had become a worldwide success. Alpert’s version was performed for the 1965 film, “Going Places,” and it peaked on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number eleven. On the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart, it ranked higher at second.
#5 – A Taste of Honey
Originally as an instrumental track for the 1960 broadway play of the same name, “A Taste of Honey” would be recorded and released by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Trumpet Band in 1965. The song earned the group four Grammy Awards in 1966 for Record of the Year, Best Instrumental Management, Best Instrumental Performance, and Best Engineered Recording. A Taste of Honey also peaked at number one on the US Adult Contemporary chart, as well as seventh on the US Billboard Hot 100.
#4 – The Lonely Bull
It is one of the most recognized songs ever produced by Herb Alpert, which he recorded and released in 1962 after receiving inspiration from the band performance he witnessed while in Tijuana, Mexico. It officially became his first top ten hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it peaked at number six. In Australia, the Kent Music Report charted “The Lonely Bull” at number one. Throughout the stretch of time, this instrumental piece has been either covered or sampled by a number of musicians, including R&B artist Monica Arnold. It’s also been featured on episodes for televised productions such as General Hospital and WKRP in Cincinnati.
#3 – Diamonds (featuring Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith)
Coming from his twenty-seventh studio album, “Diamonds” peaked at number one on the US Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart in 1987. This would be the first time Alpert would earn this achievement in the R&B category. While Alpert performed as a trumpeter, Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith served as lead and backup vocalists. This comeback single for Alpert also charted on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number five, and also served to be a worldwide hit as it peaked as high as third on the Dutch Singles Chart.
#2 – This Guy’s in Love with You
On five different music charts, the 1968 single, “This Guy’s in Love with You,” peaked at number one. The US Billboard Hot 100, the US Adult Contemporary, the US Cash Box, Australia’s Kent Report, and Canada’s RPM each witnessed this song reach the top of their respective lists. It also peaked as high as third with the UK Singles Chart. Along with the performance of the Tijuana Trumpet Band, this song is the first number-one single on the Hot 100 chart not just for Alpert, but for the A&M Record label as well. Over the years, a number of artists have covered this song, including Nancy Sinatra, Dionne Warwick, and Sammy Davis, Jr.
#1 – Rise
“Rise” is not only Herb Alpert’s most commercially successful album he’s ever recorded and released in his career, but so is its leading track of the same name. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked at number. This same rank was also repeated on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. This served as Alpert’s achievement of becoming the first and only to reach the top of the Hot 100 with a vocal performance (for This Guy’s in Love with You) as well as the instrumental performance of Rise. As a crowning achievement, this song also earned the 1980 Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance.
Top 10 Herb Alpert Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2021