Two-part documentary traces the times and stars of the label
It was formed in a garage for the release of just one record, but the label grew to become the home of such iconic acts as Cat Stevens, Carole King, Joe Cocker, The Carpenters, Peter Frampton, Janet Jackson, The Go-Go’s and The Police.
Musician Herb Alpert and promoter Jerry Moss created the hit factory whose history is traced in “Mr. A & Mr. M: The Story of A&M Records,” a documentary miniseries EPIX will show over two consecutive Sundays, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12. Archival footage and new interviews with Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members Alpert and Moss, plus many of the artists they nurtured, underscore the diversity that helped A&M attain a rare and revered place in music.
“We started on a handshake,” the pleasant Alpert recalls of partnering with Moss in an interview for this article. “We put out one record called ‘The Lonely Bull’ (by trumpeter Alpert and the Tijuana Brass), and a lot of things happened off of that. We didn’t want to just see what was happening on the charts and duplicate that; we wanted our artists to have their own personalities, and we thought they could send themselves down the runway if we gave them a chance to exercise their creativity, instead of insisting they make records the way we wanted.”
Moss says he’s “extremely pleased” A&M is getting renewed attention via the documentary. “I think so many acts were so important to the company, and they carried on for quite a long time. The thing of it was always to have fun, number one, with artists doing what they liked to do. It was just a matter of finding what worked, and once we found it, we managed to make a lot out of it.”
Produced in part by The Kennedy/Marshall Company, which also was involved in the California-music portrait “Laurel Canyon” for EPIX, “Mr. A & Mr. M” notes that usual instrumentalist Alpert also enjoyed a No. 1 hit on A&M as a vocalist on “This Guy’s in Love With You.” He maintains that success “caught me off-guard,” but he adds, “It’s all about the material. A great song is a great song.”
Since the 1989 sale of A&M, Moss has focused on owning and breeding horses. Alpert is preparing for a 2022 concert tour after recently releasing the jazz album “Catch the Wind,” but he still reasons, “Timing plays an enormous part in the success of any artist. You have to be at the right place at the right time. If we tried to start A&M Records in today’s environment, I don’t think we’d have a chance … but in 1962, the door was wide open for us.”