Friday, February 24, 2017

The Lonely Bull


In the fall of 1962 the Class of '66, and about ten million other kids, turned on the radio and heard the sad lament about the death of a bull. No words to the music...just the sad, sorrowful sounds of a trumpet assaulting our senses. The record was "The Lonely Bull" and from that first air play, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass would put out a hit record or two every year throughout our high school years. 

Alpert's records always had the flavor of latin music, and so we all thought Herb Alpert was Hispanic. He wasn't. He was of Russian Jewish ancestry from New York City. 
As a boy Alpert had taken trumpet lessons. His music teacher urged him to make a sound all his own, pontificating that "you're just playing a piece of plumbing" so, to succeed, you need to find your own niche.
So one afternoon in the early 60's, in Mexico City, Alpert attended a bull fight. He noted how each matador was introduced, each in their own special way, by trumpets blaring throughout the stadium. That sound struck a note with Alpert and he adopted that sound for his own music.
And when "The Lonely Bull" was released we too liked that sound. And we forked enough allowance money over so that Herb Alpert could begin producing his own records. With partner Jerry Moss, Alpert formed A&M records and bought Charlie Chaplin's old movie studio for their recording studio. From that humble beginning Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass would sell 70 million records. And A&M records would sign dozens of other popular music artists, including The Carpenters and Janet Jackson and many more.
A&M was such a success that, in the late 80's, when Alpert tired of the music scene he sold A&M records to Polygram for $500 million dollars.
Alpert then "retired" to his 6 acre estate in Malibu and took up painting and sculpture, with each piece going on the market for $250,000 dollars and up.
And Herb Alpert has been busy giving his money away. He and his wife established the Herb Alpert Foundation that has given away more than $100 million dollars to charitable causes, including hundreds of music scholarships for deserving musicians.
Not bad for a Jewish Russian kid who everyone thought was Mexican!


Jerry Carlin said...

Worth Reading Twice! We are pretty close to the same age and have gone through a lot of the same experiences even though some times at opposite sides viewing the same thing! I always learn something from your posts and appreciate that! Herb Alpert not a Mexican? A bit disappointing. I still have his records, probably bought in 1965 when I finished High School.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your posts. I learn something and it usually prompts memories.

A Modest Scribler said...

Jerry, you show extreme good taste in music! And tomatoes! Try to stay dry, my friend!

A Modest Scribler said...

Thank you, Cindi! That's why I write them!

TheRandyGuy said...

One of the most interesting things about HA is that, when you listen to his recordings, the trumpets sound like one guy playing - tightest horn section ever. There's a reason for that. He plays all the parts, lead, second and third. No wonder his trumpets sound so similar! He was one of the reasons I took up the horn in 1969. He doesn't get the respect he deserves these days, but the guy was a powerhouse in his day and is one of the most successful producers ever. Great article.