That ship has sailed

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 3, 2008

OK, so I missed the boat.

I’m going to take a wild stab at this and say not many readers remember the name Herb Alpert, as in Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Mr. Alpert (and I will offer the man due respect, as will become apparent in a moment) was a trumpet player — albeit not a very good one — and formed a band that was wildly successful. The band sold tons of albums and made the Top-40s lists of charts


Good for him.

But here’s where the boat left the dock without me on board.

Mr. Alpert and I have no personal connection, no common bloodlines, nothing to connect us except some loosely scattered experiences.

He began taking trumpet lessons when he was about 8 years old. About the same age, many years later, I started playing trumpet with the school’s band.

Mr. Alpert later was in the school’s marching band. I was in my high school marching band.

OK, I admit, the connection is a little thin.

Through the years, his music got a lot of radio play which caught the ears of my father, who enjoyed music but had little talent. Instead, he made his son perform. I could be off-base on this, but I think my dad invented trumpet karaoke: Playing the horn along with an album on the record changer.

I’m sure, in his mind, this made perfect sense. It was very confusing in mine, however.

But Mr. Alpert continued. His songs continued to get air play and make him a lot of money. I, on the other hand, went on to high school and almost got kicked out of the band for being a smart-aleck.

Here’s the kicker, in my mind: In 1966, his music outsold The Beatles by two-to-one. More than 13 million Alpert recordings were sold. That same year, Mr. Alpert set a record by placing five albums 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.

So, the guy had game.

He also had smarts.

His is the “A” in A&M records that he co-founded.

And just last month, he donated $15 million to the California Institute of the Arts at the University of Southern California. For that, the university is naming its music school after Mr. Alpert. It’s being called the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts.

Mr. Alpert also donated $30 million to fund a new music school at the University of California, Los Angeles last year.

Well, maybe I should have stuck with the trumpet karaoke thing. I’m still nervous that my alma mater, James Madison, will uncover the $4 parking ticket issued in 1978 that still hasn’t been paid.

Just where is that boat?

Paul McFarlane is the Editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail is