Tag Archives: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass

And so our story continues

When we met in the WIFC studio on Tuesday morning, Feb. 18, 1975, Bruce Charles was 22 and I was 17.

Five years’ difference is nothing now, but it’s enormous at that age. He was one of the coolest guys everyone knew, and I was just a high school senior who loved radio.

It was the first real, out-in-the-world interview of my journalism career. But at 17, I still hadn’t learned some of the nuances of interviewing. The story I wrote was good enough, but now I see how and where it could have been better. Then I got a second chance.

It had been 33 years since I last heard Bruce Charles’ voice, but when he answered the phone last September, it was just as I remembered.

It’s not a classic radio voice, but it’s distinctive. It’s the voice you get after you’ve shouted and cheered all night at a show.

Bruce Charles is from a place called Brantwood, a wide spot in the road on U.S. 8 in northern Wisconsin.

“My father was a farmer and a logger, and quite honestly, I wasn’t very good at either. But when we had coffee break, I was good at entertaining the group … I knew what work was — farming and logging — but talking and entertaining people wasn’t work.”

So at 17, “a couple of months” shy of 18, Bruce Charles Heikkinen dropped his last name and went to work at WSAU-AM in Wausau, Wisconsin, the closest big town, about an hour southeast of Brantwood.

brucecharles“When I first started, I worked all night at WSAU, playing everything from Mancini to Dean Martin to the Beatles.”

A year later, he joined its sister station, WIFC, the dominant FM station in central Wisconsin then and now. In the early ’70s, WIFC’s format was Top 40 during the day and rock at night.

“What a great experience.”

“As music director, I was contacted at a very young age by music people from all over the country. (A lot of that was) on the phone. In person, (I met) Todd Rundgren, Heart, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Styx and the Eagles.”

It was a wild time, too. Especially if you were young and the most popular DJ on the most popular station around.

“Life was good. It was a rock ‘n’ roll world. … Those were the benefits. … Girls who would do strange things to themselves while you listened on the other end of the line. Married women taking you out to eat and more. Strippers. Pay wasn’t that good, but the women were!”

Speaking of which, I asked Bruce which Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass cut he played at 6 a.m., opening our show all those years ago. I’m not surprised it came from this album.

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“A Taste Of Honey,” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, from “Whipped Cream and Other Delights,” 1965.

However sweet that taste, Bruce Charles was on the verge of another adventure, one that changed the course of his life.

That story tomorrow.

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Filed under February 2009, Sounds

Three under the tree, Day 2

That I found this record a couple of months ago at my favorite record store of all time — Inner Sleeve Records in Wausau, Wisconsin — was simply icing on the Christmas cookie.

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“Something Festive!” is a Christmas sampler from A&M Records. It was sold at B.F. Goodrich tire dealers in 1968.

It’s eclectic, to say the least. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass are on it, as are Julius Wechter and the Baja Marimba Band. But so are Liza Minnelli (singing “Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy”) and Claudine Longet (covering Randy Newman’s “Snow.”)

Here, then, are three from “Something Festive!”

“It’s The Most Wonderful Time,” by Pete Jolly. This is a cool, stylish, upbeat rendition by the jazz pianist from California. I’d never heard it before, and it’s great. It’s the best cut on the album. (You’ll also find this cut on “Cool Yule: The Swinging Sound of Christmas,” a UK compilation released in 2004.)

“Partridge in a Pear Tree,” by Julius Wechter and the Baja Marimba Band. An instrumental version of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” The finish goes over the top, but after hearing those mellow vibes and marimbas, does it matter? (You’ll also find this cut on “For Animals Only,” the BMB’s third album, released in 1965. It’s out of print.)

“Jingle Bell Rock,” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. I’m not a big fan of this Christmas tune, but I like this arrangement. Its big finish sounds suited to a strip club. (You’ll also find this cut on the TJB’s “Christmas Album,” also released in 1968. It’s out of print.)

“Something Festive!” is long out of print but can be found on eBay.

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Filed under Christmas music, November 2008, Sounds

Too much information

It was in my head, rattling around in there.

We’re sitting there a couple of weeks ago, watching the kids from our church’s high school youth group doing a skit based on “The Dating Game” at their ’70s-themed fund-raising dinner.

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Never mind that “The Dating Game” debuted in 1965 and — to my mind, at least — is a relic more of the ’60s than of the ’70s. (The original went off the air in July 1973.) But the kids don’t realize that, and I understand. The ’70s are to them what the ’40s were to me, when I was their age.

Yet we’re sitting there, and try as I might to keep it in check, there is one thing I … simply … cannot … resist … sharing … with the folks at our table.

“You know, there actually were different pieces of music for each part of ‘The Dating Game.'”

The lovely Janet turns to me and says, “You sound just like your dad.” (Dad is legendarily obsessive about the smallest details of railroading.) Everyone else at the table looks at me as if I have just arrived from Mars.

I didn’t go into the details … though I would have loved to had anyone asked. I suspect your eyes are glazing over, too. If you really must know, check out this portion of the Wiki entry on “The Dating Game.”

Suffice it to say there was more to “The Dating Game” than one tune.

The song that lingers in everyone’s mind is “Whipped Cream,” by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. They played that when they introduced the bachelorettes. You know that one. Here’s a remixed version of it.

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“Whipped Cream,” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass with Ozomatli, “Whipped Cream and Other Delights Rewhipped,” 2006.

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And, finally, the original theme song to the show.

“The Dating Game” theme song, Chet Baker and the Mariachi Brass, 1965. From a 2003 compilation CD called “The Coolest Year in Music History: 1966,” a debatable point.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds

Sunny pop goodness

It comes with the territory — I’ve lived in Wisconsin since 1965 — but I really am tired of being cold this winter.

Maybe that just comes with being older than dirt.

I could use some nice sunny pop goodness. Maybe you could, too.

You’ve heard ’em all, but dig ’em anyway.

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“Green Peppers” and “A Taste of Honey,” Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, from “Whipped Cream and Other Delights,” 1965.

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“I’d Wait a Million Years,” 1969, and “Temptation Eyes,” 1970, both by the Grass Roots, from “Their 16 Greatest Hits,” 1971. It’s out of print, but both cuts are available on this best-of CD.

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“Valleri,” the Monkees, from “The Birds, the Bees and the Monkees,” 1968.

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“Paperback Believer,” Mark Vidler/Go Home Productions, 2004, from “This Was Pop, 2002-2007.” This Beatles/Monkees mashup is among the many swell Vidler creations available at his web site. Go get ’em.

Oh, yeah, I feel much better now.

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Filed under March 2008, Sounds