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The Champs were an American rock and roll band, most famous for their Latin-tinged instrumental “Tequila“. The group was loosely formed by studio executives at the time for the sole purpose to record a B-side for the Dave Burgess (aka Dave Dupree) single “Train to Nowhere”. Disappointed by the lackluster A side, local Disc jockeys flipped the 45 over, and played “Tequila” instead, making the song one of the biggest hits of the ’50s.
What was thought to be an intended throwaway track became more famous than its original A-side, as “Tequila” (Side B) went to No. 1 in just three weeks. The band became the first group to go to the top spot with an instrumental that was their first release. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Danny Flores, who was the saxophone player in The Champs, wrote this song (it’s credited to his pen name, Chuck Rio). Flores had the melody kicking around for a while, and would play it as an interlude during the group’s club shows. He was a tequila drinker, so when the band decided to record his melody as a B-side, he named it “Tequila” and added the spoken title, which he voiced.
According to Leo Kulka, who was the second engineer, some of the musicians had already left the studio when it was brought up that nothing had been recorded for the B-side. The remaining musicians were rounded up and the song was written on the spot. The “Tequila” part of the song was simply a silly attempt to cover up the holes in the song. After all, it was just the B-side.
Here they are playing “live” on what was usually a 99% lip-synced show, Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show with Dave Clark on May 03, 1958. Because you can’t lip sync the number one instrumental of the day, now can you?
Here is the A side of the original record, if you are brave:
Not to be out done, the popular mainstream guys of the day tried to steal the thunder of the song, and did a cover tune.. Pretty regular thing to do.
Here is Bill Haley and the Comets doing Tequila:
Although the word “Tequila” is only spoken three times throughout the tune, “Tequila” became a #1 hit on both the pop and R&B charts at the time of its release and continues to be strongly referenced in pop culture to this day.