The piece “Tequila” by The Champs was written by saxophonist Chuck Rio, the stage name of Danny Flores, known as the “Godfather of Latino rock.” (Well, it’s mostly instrumental, except they say “Tequila” a few times — and there’s always a trivia question that involves the exact number of times.) It’s based on a Cuban mambo beat. In 1958, the “Tequila” went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B Chart.
The song was the B-Side to a Dave Burgess (aka Dave Dupree) single “Train to Nowhere,” but was more successful. In addition to Flores on sax, vocals, and keyboards, there are Burgess and Buddy Bruce on guitar, Gene Alden on drums, and Huelyn Duvall on background vocals. The Champs formed as a group after recording “Tequila.” They had a fluid lineup over the years, as it were, and recorded, toured, and performed until 1965.
There have been many, many covers of “Tequila.” This includes versions by Eddie Platt, The Ventures (twice), The Piltdown Men, Bill Black’s Combo, Dizzy Gillespie, Wes Montgomery, Boots Randolph, Dr. Feelgood, Larry Carlton, A.L.T., Perez Prado Bad Manners, David Sanborn, Ska Cubano, Oreskaband, and many more.
“Tequila” has had its impact on pop culture, too. It has been featured in TV: Happy Days, Two and a Half Men, and commercials. It has also been featured in movies” Breakfast at Tiffany’s (during a party scene), Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (can’t forget his dance, and those shoes!), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Sandlot, and others.