Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

"If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools."

– Plato


Monday, November 12, 2012

A Horse Record for A & M Records?

     A while back I wrote a few articles on music.  Today I thought it would be fun to mix music with a race horse - two seemingly incompatible subjects.

            I once worked as a free-lance writer/arranger for Almo Publications, which was the publishing arm of A&M Records in Hollywood.  This was back in the ‘70s.  A&M was founded and owned by Herb Alpert and Jerry Moss.  Thus “A&M.”  The company was located in the old Charlie Chaplin studios and took up an entire city block. 

            As you know, Alpert was the trumpet player with the Tijuana Brass.  He is also an artist and a very good businessman.  His business partner was Jerry Moss.  I’ll get to Jerry in a minute.

            My job was to arrange the music of popular artists who were under contract with A&M Records and turn their music into instructional books and arrangements for all instruments.  I also had to provide instructions on how to play each instrument.  This was a daunting task, because I didn’t know “jack” about most of the instruments and had to research and study each one. But I was paid very well and I had a great partner in Hollywood

            Claudia Previn, daughter of Andre Previn, was my link at A&M.  She took my manuscripts and followed them through production to the series of published books.  Claudia was very bright and talented and we became good friends.  I don’t think either of us saw the value in publishing books on some of these music groups.  As I’ve said, some of what passes as music stretches the definition of music beyond reason and taste.  Nevertheless, I turned out 42 books in this particular project.
            These books included the hits of The Beatles, Burt Bacharach, The Carpenters, Peter Frampton, and others.  Much of the music was good, but some was terrible.  The music of Kiss was so bad we didn’t even proof the piano arrangement.  The thought was that any mistake I may have made would be an improvement. 

            Now to the racehorse.  Herb Alpert’s partner at A&M, Jerry Moss, was the owner of the great horse, Giacomo, winner of the Kentucky Derby in 2005.  Giacomo (“James” in Italian) was named after the son of Sting, who recorded for A&M Records.   

Giacomo had 50-1 odds against him and paid Moss over 1.6 million dollars for the Derby win.  Giacomo was the most unlikely Derby winner in over 80 years and was the second-longest shot to win in the 131 year history of the Derby at that time.

            Jockey Mike Smith rode Giacomo to the win. Mike had suffered a broken back in a race several years prior when his horse stumbled and rolled over him. Being a jockey is one of the most dangerous of occupations.  This win was the greatest thrill of Mike’s career and was very emotional for him. Smith said he was “just hanging on for dear life,” as Giacomo broke for the finish line. 
            I’m sure some of you saw that race.  Now you know a little about the great horse Giacomo, his winning jockey, the background of Giacomo’s owner, and even a little about A&M Records.          

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