Lost or Forgotten Oldie of the Day: 1966 Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – What Now My Love / Little Spanish Flea

1966 Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – What Now My Love / Little Spanish Flea 

Herb Alpert grew up in Los Angeles. Both of his parents were accomplished musicians, and when he was only eight-years-old, Herb began playing the trumpet. While in high school, he played at dances and began experimenting with recording himself on rudimentary equipment.

While in the military, Herb played at various ceremonies. After the end of his military career, Herb briefly pursued an acting career. He quickly abandoned that idea and began concentrating on writing and playing music. He co-wrote and recorded the single Hully Gully in 1959, but nothing happened.

He produced Baby Talk by Jan and Dean, which reached the top ten in 1959. He also co-wrote Wonderful World, and Sam Cooke reached #12 with the song in 1960.

Herb and Jerry Moss formed their own record label in 1962. They initially called the label Carnival Records, but they renamed it A&M Records when they discovered that name was already in use. Herb attended a bullfight in Mexico and the mariachi band and the crowd responses inspired him to record a record. He played trumpet on the recording and used the Wrecking Crew studio musicians to record The Lonely Bull. He completed the song by dubbing a second trumpet track, and the single was mixed with that trumpet on one track and all the rest of the song on the other track. The single peaked at #6 on the Hot 100 in 1962 and helped the A&M label become established.

While the Wrecking Crew continued to play on most of his recordings, Herb recruited a team of studio musicians and put together a touring group that could appear with him as the Tijuana Brass. 

In 1965 he recorded an instrumental version of a song the Beatles had covered in 1963, A Taste Of Honey. His version won three Grammy Awards, including Record of the Year. Three more singles followed from his next album, Going Places.

In 1966 he released the title song from his new album. They paired the A-side of the  single, What Now My Love, with a song from Going Places, Spanish Flea, on the B-side of the record. At that time, Billboard still charted each side of a single separately, and when disk jockeys began playing different sides of the single, it kept either side from becoming a big hit on the Hot 100. The A-side peaked at #24 while the B-side reached #27 in 1966. The two sides swept up to #2 and #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart, which was more accepting of instrumentals. What Now My Love still won two Grammy Awards, but lost Record of the Year to Frank Sinatra’s Strangers in The Night.

Over time, Spanish Flea has become more well-known thanks to its use as a theme on the television show, The Dating Game.

Herb has disbanded and reformed the Tijuana Brass a few times, but continued recording hits through 1987. He has also discovered and produced a long list of artists for the A&M label.


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