Born on 31 March 1937, Herb Alpert attended the University of Southern California. He took up trumpet at the age of eight and played in junior and full symphony orchestras.
During his spell in the Army, he developed a love of jazz but realised he had no particular talent as a jazz musician.
In 1957 he teamed up with Lou Adler writing songs for Keen Records. Their Wonderful World was a hit for Sam Cooke in 1960 and later for Herman’s Hermits in 1965. During 1966 Alpert was working as a session musician when he discovered his distinctive ‘double trumpet’ sound.
Alpert formed A&M Records (he is the “A” in A&M) with Jerry Moss (the “M”) to promote his first hit Lonely Bull which reached #6 (USA) and #27 (UK) in 1962. From there he had a succession of gold albums, starting with Lonely Bull (1962), then Herb Alpert Vol 2, South Of The Border, Whipped Cream and Other Delights and Going Places.
Alpert ran A&M from his garage during its early days and, as a trumpeter and bandleader, provided it with three decades of easy listening “Americiachi” hits. In truth, there wasn’t really much of the Mexican trumpet tradition in the Tijuana Brass sound.
Alpert’s 60s work – The Lonely Bull, Whipped Cream, A Taste of Honey – has a Dick Emery theme tune quality about it, and the later music – Fandango, Rotation, Diamonds (with Janet Jackson) – is as smooth as Mariachi is ragged. But there was always very little to offend (Alpert even insisted on re-titling Spanish Fly as Spanish Flea) and every track was very pretty on the surface.
Alpert achieved a further US #1 in 1979 with the instrumental Rise, which was later sampled by rapper Notorious B.I.G.