Kentucky Fried Chicken is famous due to its delicious chicken's secret recipe and it is one of the most successful fast food chains in the world, with 25,000 branches around the world, which opened for the first in 1952 in the United States.
To promote its brand, KFC decided to release an album titled "Colonel Sanders' Tijuana Picnic" in 1968 where they compiled several jazz and funk songs. Interestingly, all of these songs were by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana to whom no credit was given nor was his authorship noted, something that annoyed fans of this band.
The LP, which is rare and a special item for collectors, was produced by the label Mark56 Record in Anaheim, California and it includes 10 songs: “A Taste Of Honey”, “Lonely Bull”, “Chili Verde”, “Spanish Flea”, “Our Day Will Come”, “Tijuana Taxi”, “Green Peppers”, “El Garbanzo”, “El Toro” and “Third Man Theme”; all of them by Herb Alpert. However, he was not mentioned and the person who receives all the credit is George Garabedian.
This type of situations usually doesn't happen, especially because it involves a brand and a fairly renowned musician. This, however, did happen and as such a story was invented for each of the songs.
The description for the song “Tijuana Taxi” was the following:
Riding in a taxi in Tijuana, or just about anywhere else in Mexico, is one of the world's scariest experiences. Every driver seems to think he's a matador and that all the other vehicles are bulls! The only other place I know where drivers are so aggressive is Tokyo, which, incidentally, is another city where you can enjoy Kentucky Fried Chicken.
When "Spanish Flea" is mentioned, it talks about how in Taxco there are circuses where they had trained fleas to dance the Varsuviana, but to the author it looked more like the Turkey Trot. KFC then states that Mexicans eat turkey with a chocolate sauce called mole.
There are different stories for each of the songs, but the most important story is the one that is untold: Herb Alpert's authorship and the songs that made up this vinyl.
The album's cover shows the famous Colonel Sanders resting under a tree in a picnic with a bucket of fried chicken in his hands. Behind him, we can see the typical American white family wearing the fashion of the day, enjoying his classic recipe and all of his restaurant's products. They are all sitting on the grass. On the lower right, the credits mention Mark56 and George Garabedian, and nothing else. What many assume is that these are all covers of Alpert's songs, but there is a difference from doing that to being the creative mind behind them.
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Let's step back a bit and talk about this famous artist. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass was a group led by American trumpeter Herb Alpert in the 1960s. Dore or Tito, as he is also known, was born on March 31, 1935, in Los Angeles, California and he has played all kinds of genres including jazz, Latin, funk, and R&B.
Throughout his career, he has recorded 28 albums that always landed on the Billboard 200 list. 5 of them went to #1, and his albums have been certified 14x platinum and 15x gold. Herb Alpert has sold 72 million albums worldwide, has won 8 Grammy awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In 2013, Alpert was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama.
The idea to include Tijuana in the name of the group came to Alpert when he visited Tijuana and witnessed a bullfight. In an interview with Cabinet Magazine, he said: That's when it hit me! Something in the excitement of the crowd, the traditional mariachi music, the trumpet call heralding the start of the fight, the yelling, the snorting of the bulls, it all clicked. After this, he retitled one of his songs originally called "Twinkle Star" to "The Lonely Bull".
His ability to make people travel to other places through music caused a sensation in the industry and his songs became hits; he was able to compete at the level of The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, and The Rolling Stones.
Coming back to KFC, it is possible that using the Tijuana name and certain cultural references on this album helped them to get closer to Mexican consumers. The first KFC establishment in Mexico opened in 1963 in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, something that was noted on the album's back cover, pointing out that it was located in the corner of Gonzalitos and Vancouver. Back then, it was one of 1,200 existing restaurants in this franchise which sold a delicious chicken seasoned with 11 spices and herbs according to a patented process.
Another paragraph on the album says: "Colonel Sanders is a natural to tell you about the Tijuana sounds on this album. They're a lot in keeping with his spirit. Although 76 years old, the Colonel is still active, perky, full of life and fun. Just as these Tijuana sounds are". Although it should actually say, "the Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass sounds."
The damage, whether it happened or not, whether it was a mistake or intentional, became a part of history; one of those things that happen when a bad marketing decision is made. It is unknown whether there were legal consequences back then.
Did Herb Alpert sue KFC for not giving him credit? Were royalties paid for the use of the copyrighted songs? Was the person responsible for this advertising fired? Was it a printing error? These are the questions that still remain unanswered. The trumpeter's famous legacy overshadows any attempt at plagiarism and, surely, as a good American, he has probably gone to a KFC more than once and has asked for a bucket of chicken.
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