Herb Alpert went to Mexico City in May 1982 to record a four-track thank you to his Latin American audience for their support over 20 years. He worked with top producer Jose Quintana and top songwriter Juan Carlos Calderon. They forged strong collaborative relationships and the idea for a Latin Division within A&M was born. AyM Discos was formed in June 1982 making A&M Records the first major American label to create a Latin Division.
As A&M had done with its operations in Great Britain and Canada, A&M staffed AyM Discos with Quintana and other Latinos--people who understood the music, the audience and the marketing. The recording philosophy was pure Alpert, "Latin ears in the studio." And, A&M gave the artists international distribution which many of them had not enjoyed before joining the label. Until AyM Discos, many Latin recording artists worked with foreign producers and U.S. recording artists relied on translators to give them the phonetics of lyrics they sang.
Headquartered at A&M in Los Angeles, the AyM staff was supported by the creative services of the parent label and the interest and presence of Alpert. The label was originally distributed by RCA/Ariola International. The arrangement included RCA providing promotion for AyM.
The first few albums were by A&M artists: Alpert's own Blow Your Own Horn and Bullish albums were repackaged at Noche de Amor and Bravio. Sergio Mendes' self-titled album became Picardia. Lani Hall and Chris Montez contributed original albums.
The artist roster grew in its representation of Latino artists and music, Cuba gave the label Maria Conchita Alonso and Lunna hailed from Puerto Rico. Mexico's Antonio de Jesus' debut album was on the Billboard Latin chart for 36 weeks. Carmin was an all-girl quartet mixing rock, techno and new wave and Lara y Monarrez were second runnerup in Mexico's OTI Festival and were regular guests on Mexican TV's "Siempre en Domingo."
Lani Hall won AyM Discos' only Grammy, Best Pop Latin Performance for her Es Facil Amar album in 1985. This was her third album of original music on AyM Discos. Billboard reported that "Hall and producer Quintana introduced the now popular concept of duets that recently revolutionized Spanish pop music."
August 4, 1987, was the scheduled release of Mana's album. The quartet was billed by A&M as "the Spanish coming of the Police." A&M also planned a Latin Dance Sampler with tracks from Willie Colon, Bernardo & the Jalapeno Jets and Caribbean Express, Righeira and Liz Torres. Also released in 1987, the self-titled album from Lunna. On August 18, Antonio de Jesus's fourth album and on September 1, Maria Conchita Alonso's new album was due. Bernardo and the Jalapeno Jets expected to release their album in October.
USC sponsored the video and 30- and 60-second video clips of Antonio de Jesus's song "Y Porque No Sonar." The video was part of a major stay in school campaign for the Latin community. It received enormous support from television, music and sports celebrities, plus Los Angeles and Puerto Rican political figures.
On November 7, 1987, Billboard reported that effective immediately, WEA Latina would distribute all AyM Discos in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. WEA Latina, unlike RCA/Ariola would only distribute the records, AyM would be responsible for promotion. The first album so distributed was Maria Conchita Alonso's Mirame. WEA would also release the rest of the AyM Discos catalog by February 1988.
In 1988, both Maria Conchita Alonso and Lunna were nominated for Best Latin Pop Performance Grammy awards. Alonso's album Maria Conchita was certified platinum and her "O Ella O Yo" went gold in the U.S.
In April 1988, Billboard reported A&M was closing the Latin Division. AyM Discos released 47 singles and 31 albums. Glenn Monroig, Eddy Romero and Saoco were also signed to the label but did not have any releases.
To date, Maria Conchita Alonso's Mirame and Lo Mejor de Maria Conchita Alonso are the only AyM Discos albums to be reissued on CD by A&M (Universal).
Billboard. Record Companies Challenge Market Conditions with Sound Economics & Natl. Talent Strategy. Luis Vega. December 14, 1985.
Billboard. A&M's Latin Division Grows from Alpert's Roots. Enrique Fernandez. June 8, 1986.
Billboard. Latin Notas. Tony Sabournin. September 5, 1987, July 4, 1987, November 7, 1987.
Billboard. A&M Folding 6-Year-Old Latin Unit. C. Agudela. April 23, 1988.