Starting in the music business back in the 1950s, Adler had an uncanny knack for being ahead of the curve when it came to predicting pop culture trends. Just before California surf music jumped from its local roots to the national Beach Boys craze, he and partner Herb Alpert began producing and managing “Jan and Dean,” a pioneering surf music duo.
As founder of Dunhill Records in 1964, just when many former folk music artists of the early ’60s were transitioning into more mainstream rock and roll, he signed The Mamas & The Papas and produced a string of hits.
In 1967, Adler co-produced the first major rock music festival ever held, the Monterey International Pop Festival, two years before Woodstock. The festival’s 30-some acts included music from around the country and introduced cutting-edge regional artists like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin for the first time. The event was also turned into a popular documentary movie “Monterey Pop” and a soundtrack album.
After selling off Dunhill Records and founding Ode Records in 1968, one of the first “boutique” labels, Adler was one of the first to think about utilizing staff songwriters at the big record labels to make their own albums. Carole King, a singer/ songwriter he knew who’d cowritten over two dozen hits for other artists in the ‘60s, fit that bill. The “Tapestry” album he produced for her won four Grammy awards in 1972 and became one of the top-selling albums of all time.
Adler’s next big foray was film. After seeing a London stage play, he bought the film rights to what later became “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” an R-rated musical released to theaters in 1975 and still playing to midnight movie audiences 38 years later. The film won a huge cult following as one of the first, if not the only, comedy musical with unapologetic gay and transvestite lead characters.
After recording several comedy albums for Cheech & Chong in the ‘70s – probably the first comedy style ever labeled as stoner humor - Adler produced and directed the duo’s first feature length film “Up in Smoke” in 1978, which was successful at the box office.
For the past few decades, Adler has continued to produce and get involved with a long list of music and film ventures. He still maintains an office and recording studio in Malibu as well as his home, has been married to wife Page for more than 20 years, and has seven sons.
Adler and Page are active in The Painted Turtle, a charity they co-founded with actor Paul Newman and others, which provides a special camp near Palmdale for children with medical conditions.
The City of Malibu presented a commendation to Lou Adler for offering his film “Monterey Pop” as the headliner for the 2007 Malipalooza! fundraiser for Legacy Park.