In 1957, Alpert teamed up with Lou Adler, another burgeoning lyricist, as a songwriter for Keen Records. A number of songs written or co-written by Alpert during the following two years became top twenty hits, including "Baby Talk" by Jan and Dean, "Wonderful World" by Sam Cooke, and "Alley-Oop" by The Hollywood Argyles and by Dante and The Evergreens. In 1960, Alpert began his recording career as a vocalist at RCA Records under the name of Dore Alpert, where he recorded early vocals.
"Tell It To The Birds" was recorded as the first release on the Alpert & Moss label, Carnival Records. When Herb & Jerry found that there was prior usage of the Carnival name, their label became A&M Records.
By the end of 1964, due to a growing demand for live appearances by the Tijuana Brass, Alpert auditioned and hired a team of crack session men. No one in Alpert's band was actually Hispanic (Alpert himself is Jewish). Alpert used to tell his audiences that his group consisted of "Three pastramis, two bagels, and an American cheese": John Pisano (electric guitar); Lou Pagani (piano); Nick Ceroli (drums); Pat Senatore (bass guitar); Tonni Kalash (trumpet); Herb Alpert (trumpet and vocal); Bob Edmondson (trombone). The band debuted in 1965 and quickly became one of the highest-paid acts then performing, having put together a complete revue that included choreographed moves and comic routines written by Bill ("Jose Jimenez") Dana.
The Tijuana Brass's success helped spawn other Latin acts, notably Julius Wechter (long-time friend of Alpert's and the marimba player for the Brass) and the Baja Marimba Band, and the profits allowed A&M to begin building a repertoire of artists like Chris Montez and The Sandpipers. Wechter would also contribute a number of the Brass' original songs, usually at least one per album, along with those of other Alpert friends, Sol Lake and Ervan "Bud" Coleman.
An album or two would be released each year throughout the 1960s. Alpert's band was also featured in several TV specials, each one usually centered on visual interpretations of the songs from their latest album - essentially an early version of the kinds of music videos later made famous by MTV. The first Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass special, sponsored by the Singer Sewing Machine Company, aired on April 24, 1967 on CBS.
Alpert's style achieved enormous popularity with the national exposure The Clark Gum Company gave to one of his recordings in 1964, a Sol Lake number titled "The Mexican Shuffle" (which was retitled "The Teaberry Shuffle" for the television ads). In 1965, Alpert released two albums, Whipped Cream (and Other Delights) and Going Places. Whipped Cream sold over 6 million copies in the United States. The album cover is considered a classic. It featured model Dolores Erickson wearing only what appeared to be whipped cream. In reality, Erickson was wearing a white blanket over which were scattered artfully-placed daubs of shaving cream--real whipped cream would have melted under the heat of the studio lights (although the cream on her head is real whipped cream). In concerts, when about to play the song, Alpert would tell the audience, "Sorry, we can't play the cover for you." The art was parodied by several groups including one-time A&M band Soul Asylum and by comedian Pat Cooper for his album Spaghetti Sauce and Other Delights. The singles included the title cut, "Lollipops and Roses", and "A Taste of Honey." The latter won a Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Going Places produced four more singles: "Tijuana Taxi", "Spanish Flea", "Third Man Theme", and "Zorba the Greek".
The Brass also covered the Bert Kaempfert tune "The Happy Trumpet" retitling it "Magic Trumpet". Alpert's rendition contained a bar that coincided with a Schlitz beer tune, "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer". ("The Maltese Melody" was another Alpert cover of a Kaempfert original). Another commercial use was a tune called "El Garbanzo", which was featured in some Sunoco ads ("They're movin', they're movin', people in the know, they're movin' to Sunoco").
In 1967, the TJB did the title cut to the first movie version of Casino Royale.
Many of the tracks from Whipped Cream and Going Places received a great deal of airplay, and still do at times; for example, they are frequently used as incidental music in The Dating Game on the Game Show Network, notably the tracks Whipped Cream, Spanish Flea and Lollipops and Roses. Despite the popularity of his singles, Alpert's albums outsold and outperformed them on the charts.
Alpert and the Tijuana Brass won six Grammy awards. Fifteen of their albums won gold discs, and fourteen won platinum discs. In 1966 over 13 million Alpert recordings were sold. That same year, the Guinness Book of World Records recognized that Alpert set a new record by placing five albums simultaneously on the Billboard Pop Album Chart, an accomplishment that has never been repeated. In April of that year, four of those albums were in the Top 10 simultaneously.
The dearth of in-depth, unauthorized biographical/historical material on Alpert is somewhat curious given that so much has been written about the only three recording artists who outsold him in the 1960s - Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and the Beatles. This is perhaps explained by the apparent lack of any outrageous, dramatic, or tragic elements in his life. There were, however, hundreds of articles written about Alpert by mainstream general and music newspapers and magazines.
Alpert's only number one single during this period (and the first #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 this to his first wife in a 1968 CBS Television special titled Beat of the Brass. The sequence was taped on the beach in Malibu. The song was not intended to be released, but after it was used in the television special, thousands of telephone calls to CBS asking about it, convinced label owner Alpert to release it as a single, two days after the show aired. Alpert's vocal skills were limited, but this song also had limited technical demands and it worked for him. The single debuted in May 1968, topped the national chart for four weeks and ranked high among the year's biggest hits. Initially dismissed by the critical cognoscenti and "hip" music-lovers as strictly a housewife's favorite, Alpert's unusually expressive recording of "This Guy's in Love with You" is now regarded as one of the monumental ballads in pop. In 1996 at London's Royal Festival Hall, Noel Gallagher (of British rock band Oasis) performed the song with Burt Bacharach.
In the 1970s, '80s, and '90s, Alpert enjoyed a successful solo career. He had his biggest instrumental hit, "Rise" (from the album of the same name), which went number one in October of 1979 and won a Grammy Award, and was later sampled in the 1997 rap song "Hypnotize" by the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. "Rise" also made Alpert the only artist ever to hit #1 on the Billboard pop singles charts with both a vocal piece and an instrumental piece. The song "Route 101" off the Fandango album peaked at number 37 in Billboard in August 1982. In 1987, Alpert branched out successfully to the R&B world with hit album Keep Your Eye On Me, teaming up with producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis on "Diamonds" and "Making Love In the Rain" featuring vocals by Janet Jackson and Lisa Keith.
From 1962 through 1992 Alpert signed artists to A&M Records and produced records. He discovered the West Coast band We Five. Among the notable artists he worked with personally are Chris Montez, The Carpenters, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, Bill Medley, Lani Hall (Alpert's second and current wife), and Janet Jackson (featured vocalist on his 1987 hit single "Diamonds"). These working relationships have allowed Alpert to become one of only a handful of artists to place singles in the Top 10 in at least three different decades ('60s, '70s, and '80s).
Alpert and A&M Records partner Jerry Moss both agreed in 1987 to sell A&M to PolyGram Records for a reported $500 million. Both would continue to manage the label until 1993, when they left due to frustrations with PolyGram's constant pressure to force the label to fit into its corporate culture. Alpert and Moss then expanded their Almo Sounds music publishing company to produce records as well, primarily as a vehicle for Alpert's music. Almo Sounds imitates the former company culture embraced by Alpert and Moss when they first started A&M.
For his contribution to the recording industry, Herb Alpert has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6929 Hollywood Blvd. Moss also has a star on the Walk of Fame. Alpert and Moss were also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on March 13, 2006 as non-performer lifetime achievers for their work at A&M.
In the 1980s he created The Herb Alpert Foundation and the Alpert Awards in the Arts with The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). The Foundation supports youth and arts education as well as environmental issues and helps fund the PBS series "Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason."
Although he has not released an album of new material since 1999's "Herb Alpert and Colors", he is actively overseeing the reissue of his music library. In 2000, Alpert acquired the rights to his music from Universal Music (current owners of A&M Records), in a legal settlement and began remastering his albums for compact disc reissue.
In 2005, Shout! Factory began distributing digitally remastered versions of Alpert's A&M output, including a new album, Lost Treasures, consisting of unreleased material from Alpert's Tijuana Brass years.
In the spring of 2006, a remixed version of the Whipped Cream album, entitled Whipped Cream and Other Delights: Re-Whipped was released and climbed to #5 on the Billboard Contemporary Jazz chart.
His songs have been in various TV shows such as Saturday Night Live.
Alpert was also credited with an acting role in the Beastie Boys music video, "Ch-Check It Out," although he did not appear.
Apart from the reissues, the Christmas Album continues to be available every year during the holiday season.
He has donated $30,000,000 to UCLA, founding the Herb Alpert School of Music within the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture, and $24,000,000 (including $15M in April 2008) to the California Institute of the Arts (CALARTS) for its music program.