Tijuana Brass in Concert

The fifth medley in the concert is entitled Tijuana Brass in Concert. It includes four popular songs by the iconic pop instrumental group of the 1960’s. The arrangement was written by Ted Ricketts (see below) in 2003.

Born in 1935 to a musical family in East Los Angeles, Herb Alpert played trumpet in the USC marching band for two years and in the 6th Army Band during the Korean War. In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Rob Weerts, another burgeoning lyricist. 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, he began his recording career as a vocalist at RCA Records under the name of Dore Alpert. In 1962, Alpert and his new business partner Jerry Moss formed Carnival Records with “Tell It to the Birds” as its first release. After Carnival released its second single “Love Is Back In Style” by Charlie Robinson, Alpert and Moss found that there was prior usage of the Carnival name and renamed their label A&M Records.

The song that jump-started Herb Alpert's performing career was originally titled “Twinkle Star”, written by Sol Lake (who would write many Tijuana Brass songs over the next decade). Alpert was dissatisfied with his first efforts to record the song, then took a break to visit a bullfight in Tijuana, Mexico. As Alpert later recounted, “That's when it hit me! Something in the excitement of the crowd, the traditional mariachi music, the trumpet call heralding the start of the fight, the yelling, the snorting of the bulls, it all clicked.” Alpert adapted the trumpet style to the tune, mixed in crowd cheers and other noises for ambience, and renamed the song “The Lonely Bull” (song number 3 in our medley).

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.

It was A&M's first album (with the original release number being #101), although it was recorded for Conway Records. The title cut reached No. 6 on the Billboard pop chart. For this album and subsequent releases, Alpert recorded with the group of Los Angeles session musicians known as The Wrecking Crew, whom he held in high regard.

Alpert's 1965 album Whipped Cream & Other Delights proved so popular — it was the number one album of 1966, outselling The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and The Rolling Stones — that Alpert had to turn the Tijuana Brass into an actual touring ensemble rather than a studio band. Some of that popularity might be attributable to the album's notoriously racy cover, which featured model Dolores Erickson seemingly clothed only in whipped cream. However, as writer Bruce Handy pointed out in a Billboard article, two other Brass albums, Going Places (1965) and What Now My Love (1966), “held the third and fifth spots on the 1966 year-end chart despite pleasant yet far more anodyne covers.” Another measure of the band's popularity is that a number of Tijuana Brass songs were used as theme music for years by the ABC TV game show, The Dating Game.

In 1966, a short animated film by John and Faith Hubley called “A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature” was released; it won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1967. The film featured two songs by the band, “Tijuana Taxi” (song number 4 in our medley) and “Spanish Flea” (song number 1 in our medley). Also in 1967, the Tijuana Brass performed Burt Bacharach's title cut to the first movie version of Casino Royale.

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 technical demands suited him.

After years of success, Alpert had a personal crisis in 1969, declaring “the trumpet is my enemy.” He disbanded the Tijuana Brass, and stopped performing in public. Eventually he sought out teacher Carmine Caruso, “who never played trumpet a day in his life, (but) he was a great trumpet teacher.” “What I found,” Alpert told The New York Times, “is that the thing in my hands is just a piece of plumbing. The real instrument is me, the emotions, not my lip, not my technique, but feelings I learned to stuff away -- as a kid who came from a very unvocal household. Since then, I've been continually working it out, practicing religiously and now, playing better than ever.” The results were noticeable; as Richard S. Ginell wrote in an AllMusic review of Alpert's comeback album, You Smile - The Song Begins, “His four-year sabbatical over, Herb Alpert returned to the studio creatively refreshed, his trumpet sounding more soulful and thoughtful, his ears attuned more than ever to jazz.”

I’ve already mentioned the first, third and fourth songs in our medley, and obliquely mentioned the second: “Whipped Cream”, which was the title song of that immensely successfully album of 1966.

Arranger Ted Ricketts (b. 1945) is a highly creative music professional with national and international experience producing and directing live and recorded music. In his 24-year tenure as Music Director and Producer for Walt Disney World, Ted contributed to hundreds of stage shows, parades, concerts and atmospheric instrumental and vocal groups for Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. In addition, he produced recordings in major cities in Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States.

As an innovative composer, arranger and orchestrator, Ted's commissioned and published works have been heard on television, commercially produced albums, in Walt Disney theme parks, and performed live throughout the world. Mr. Ricketts holds a Bachelor of Arts in Music and a Masters of Arts in Music from California State University at Long Beach. Early in his career, he served as Assistant Director of the marching band and concert band at Long Beach City College. At the high school level, Ted was Director of Music at Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, CA.

In recent years, Ted has been a college instructor in Commercial Music Arranging at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. Ted has recently relocated to Los Angeles, where he is currently a freelance music director, producer, composer and arranger.

The music for Tijuana Brass in Concert was provided for the band by Barbara Cotton, in memory of her parents, Chet and Ginny Orr.