Herb Alpert Discovers a Pirate

My friend and mentor, Don Graham, who is still promoting music at 80, was the first promo guy at A&M records. He joined Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss shortly after they launched the company out of Alpert’s garage, hardly believing that in 50 years they’d be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Early on after a vist to Tijuana, Mexico, and listening to Mariachi Bands, Alpert formed his band the Tijuana Brass, and began recording in the Mariachi style, only with a hip twist and beat.

To the surprise of virtually everybody, the Brass’s first effort: ‘The Lonely Bull,’ became a rare instrumental smash rising to the top of the charts. Many more hit’s like, ‘A Taste of Honey,’ were to follow and eventually Herb would have a huge solo hit with ‘This Guys In Love With You.’ Meanwhile, in the first decade his and Jerry’s little record company, A&M, became the largest Independent Record Company in the world. When I arrived at KELP, in El Paso, TX, there was a local Car Dealer running a heavy schedule of commercials using an Herb Alpert song as a track under their spots. I asked the stations’ Production Director, Denny Forsyth, if he knew whether or not the Car Dealer had licensed the music for commercial use, and Denny said he didn’t know, but nobody would ever question it. I had my doubts, but forgot about it until one day we began running spots for a coming concert with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, and that renewed my attention.

I know you can see this coming: riding in from the airport, Mr. Alpert heard one of those spots on our air, then 15 minutes later another, so he directed the cab driver to take him to the Dealership. I would love to have been watching when he walked into the Showroom and announced he was Herb Alpert and would like to speak to the owner. Long story short, two days later Herb decided to drive the beautiful new fire-engine red Corvette that the Dealer had gifted him, home to Los Angeles as a gift to his son. Oh, and suddenly we were using different music under all those Dealer spots.

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