The Champs came about entirely by accident. Guitarist Dave Burgess worked as A&R man for Challenge Records which was owned by cowboy Gene Autry. He had recorded a song called “Train to Nowhere,” along with Danny Flores who played saxophone and piano, and was looking for a song to put on the B-side of the single.
Flores came up with a song that he had written while visiting Tijuana, Mexico that he called “Tequila.” It was Burgess’s idea to have Flores shout the word “Tequila” after each break in the song. They got together other musicians and recorded “Tequila” as the B-side of “Train to Nowhere.” Now, they needed a name. Since Gene Autry owned the label and his horse in his movies was called Champion, they became the Champs.
“Train to Nowhere” was released December 26, 1957 and as the name implies, the record went nowhere. Then the disc jockeys flipped the record over and started playing “Tequila.” Eddie Platt, a saxophonist, also recorded the song and both versions were on the chart at the same time, although Platt’s version only got to number 20. Danny Flores later changed his name to Chuck Rio, so that is what is listed as the writer of “Tequila.”
The Champs continued to record for several years and had three more Top 40 songs, but none came even close to the success of “Tequila.” Personnel changed over the years and some you might know are Glen Campbell who was a member of the Champs for a while. Also, remember Seals and Crofts of “Summer Breeze” fame? They also played in Champs.
“Tequila,” by the Champs set a couple records in 1958. The Champs were the first instrumental group to go to number one with their first record. And, “Tequila” was the first song, period, to jump from outside the Top 10 all the way to number one in one week.
“Tequila” entered the chart on March 3, 1958 and took only three weeks to get to number one, where it stayed for five weeks.
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