|Single by The Champs|
|B-side||"Train to Nowhere"|
|Released||January 15, 1958|
|Recorded||December 23, 1957|
|Producer(s)||Joe Johnson (Challenge Records)|
|The Champs singles chronology|
"Tequila" is a 1958 Latin-flavored rock and roll instrumental recorded by the Champs. It is based on a Cuban mambo beat. The word "Tequila" is 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.
In 1957, Gene Autry's record label, Challenge Records, signed Dave Burgess (born 1934), a rockabilly singer-songwriter from California who often recorded under the name "Dave Dupree". At the end of 1957, having produced no hits, Challenge Records looked to Burgess, who organized a recording session on December 23 in Hollywood. In the studio that day were Burgess on rhythm guitar, Cliff Hills on bass guitar, the Flores Trio (Danny Flores on saxophone and keyboards, Gene Alden on drums, and lead guitarist Buddy Bruce), and Huelyn Duvall contributing backing vocals. They gathered primarily to record "Train to Nowhere", a song by Burgess, as well as "Night Beat" and "All Night Rock".
The last tune recorded was "Tequila", essentially just a jam by the Flores Trio. There were three takes, and Danny Flores, who wrote the song, was also the man who actually spoke the word "Tequila!". Flores also played the trademark "dirty sax" solo. The song served as the B-side for "Train to Nowhere", which was released by Challenge Records on January 15, 1958. Duvall recalls that the record initially found little success, but, after a DJ in Cleveland played the B-side, "Tequila" skyrocketed up the charts, reaching #1 on the Billboard chart on March 28, 1958.
Daniel Flores had written "Tequila", but, because he was signed to another label, the tune was credited to "Chuck Rio", a name he adopted for the stage. Those present for the December 23 session began recording together again on January 20, 1958, under the name the Champs; the group technically formed after recording "Tequila". The tune has been noted[by whom?] to have a similar rhythm structure to Bo Diddley's 1958 release "Dearest Darling".
Challenge Records was founded in Los Angeles in 1957 by cowboy singer Gene Autry and former Columbia Records A&R representative Joe Johnson. Autry's involvement with the label was short lived as he sold his interest to the remaining partners in October 1958. The label's first success came with instrumental group the Champs, who had their biggest hit in 1958 with "Tequila". They also had a series of hits with pop singer Jerry Wallace ("Primrose Lane") and country singer Wynn Stewart ("Wishful Thinking"). Other recording artists with the label included Jan and Dean, Gary Usher, the Knickerbockers, and singer-songwriter Jerry Fuller. The first Challenge label was blue with silver print, followed after the first half dozen releases by a short-lived light blue label with red print, then a maroon colored label with silver print. Finally around late 1959, the company issued their singles on a green label with silver print.
The Champs recorded a sequel to "Tequila" entitled "Too Much Tequila". Released as a maroon-label Challenge single, it reached #30 on the Billboard Hot 100.
- Eddie Platt took the tune to #20 in the U.S. in 1958.
- The tune was covered by the Ventures twice. Initially it was on their 1963 Dolton album The Ventures Play Telstar and the Lonely Bull, BST 8019
- The Piltdown Men released the tune as a single in 1962 called "Tequila Bossa Nova" (with "Tequila Bossa Nova" replacing "Tequila" as the calls).
- The tune was covered by Bill Black's Combo: "Tequila"/"Raunchy", 7" single, Hi Records 45-2077, US 1966.
- The (former) Yugoslav band Iskre released a cover in 1965.
- Dizzy Gillespie recorded a version of the tune on his 1966 album The Melody Lingers On on Limelight Records.
- Jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery recorded a version of the tune on his 1966 album Tequila on Verve Records.
- Boots Randolph on his 1967 album Sax-Sational featured a version very faithful to the original.
- In the late 1960s, the Joe Loss Orchestra, a British dance band, recorded their danceable version, available today on a Latin jazz compilation album The Best Latin Jazz Album in the World... Ever!.
- Dr. Feelgood covered the tune live on their 1974 debut album, Down by the Jetty.
- Jazz guitarist Larry Carlton recorded a version of the tune on his 1983 album Friends.
- The Reverend Horton Heat, on their 1990 album Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em, recorded "Marijuana", which bears a strong resemblance in structure to "Tequila".
- A Latin hip hop cover in 1992 by A.L.T. was a Top Ten hit in numerous countries and entered the Billboard Top 40.
- Perez Prado covered the tune.
- Hot Butter, known for their 1972 single "Popcorn", covered "Tequila" in their album Moog Hits.
- A segment of the tune also appears in the song "What Happened?" by California punk/ska band Sublime. The song is about the morning after a party and the word "Tequila" is replaced with "What Happened?"
- US band No Way José reached #47 in the UK chart with their version in 1985.
- Industrial Metal band Klutæ released a reworking entitled "Tequila Slammer" on their 1995 EP Excepted, using samples of the original lyrics and horns layered with drum machines and heavy guitar.
- Bad Manners covered the tune on their album Loonee Tunes!
- The Tony Levin Band released a version of the tune on their 2002 album Pieces of the Sun. This version has little resemblance to the original, aside from the occasional playing of the main tequila theme and a quiet utterance of the title three times during the course of the song. Levin claims a co-writing credit on his version.
- Spanish duo Azúcar Moreno on their 2002 album Únicas.
- David Sanborn covered the tune from his 2003 album Time Again.
- The saxophone riff was used by Suggs on his song "(No More) Alcohol".
- Ska Cubano covered this tune on their album Mambo Ska, and it forms part of their current live set.
- Japanese band the Pugs do a punk-thrash cover of the tune on their 1997 compilation album Pugs Bite the Red Knee, using samples of the original recording.
- Keimzeit covered the tune on their live album Nachtvorstellung.
- Ska punk band Reel Big Fish humorously played a portion of the tune as an intro to their song "Beer" on their 2011 tour with Streetlight Manifesto.
- Smooth jazz guitarist George Benson covered the song on his 2011 album Guitar Man.
- Japanese girl band ORESKABAND plays a cover of this song.
- "Tequila" is the University of Washington Husky Marching Band "dynasty" song, with Husky fans sporting "Tequila!" bumper stickers and t-shirts. The band plays the song at every home and away football game.
In popular culture
- The song is well known for being played during high school and college football games, usually performed by the school's band.
- The TV series Happy Days made a lot of use of the "Tequila" hit, especially at the diner scenes.
- In the 1980 film Cheech and Chong's Next Movie, the tune was played during a montage scene in which Cheech and Chong begin customizing Cheech's work van.
- The 1985 film Pee-wee's Big Adventure featured a scene in which Pee-wee Herman knocks over a row of motorcycles, then proceeds to win over the angered bikers by selecting "Tequila" from the jukebox and comically dancing to it. The "Pee-wee dance," as well as the character himself, have since been closely linked with the tune in popular culture. This usage of the tune was further referenced in rapper Joeski Love's track "Pee-wee's Dance", which also utilized "Tequila"'s melody.
- Canadian figure skater Kurt Browning used the song for his short program during the 1987-1988 season which included the 1988 Winter Olympics.
- A television commercial for the 1988 Mexican Velveeta commercial used the song with "Tequila" replaced with "Velveeta" with the dancing jalapeño peppers.
- In the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Michelangelo and Donatello dance to "Tequila" but change the lyric to "Ninjitsu!"
- The song "Está llegando la banda" ("The band is arriving") uses the tune of "Tequila". "Está llegando la banda" is usually sung at Mexican Football Federation football matches.
- In the 1993 film The Sandlot, the song plays during a scene in which the main characters become nauseous and vomit while on an amusement park ride after chewing tobacco. This scene has been cut from some television airings of the film.
- Charlie Sheen's character sings this in the Two and a Half Men episode "Principal Gallagher's Lesbian Lover", but changes the lyric to 'Gridlock'.
- Mafia II featured the Champs' "Tequila" on the radio station Empire Central Radio during the '50s part of the game
- Terrorvision used the main elements of the melody of this tune as the basis of their song "Tequila" which reached No. 2 in the UK charts in January 1999.
- A television commercial for Tostitos brand corn chips used the song in 2012, with "Tequila" replaced with "Tostitos".
- In the 1960 film Pepe, Cantinflas and Debbie Reynolds jumped out of a tequila bottle and danced to the tune "Tequila" dressed as Mexican peasants.
- In Dave Gorman's Modern Life is Goodish at the end of S01E03 he replaces "tequila" with "free peeler!"
- "Tequila" is played during the dance competition at the start of Strictly Ballroom (1992). Other films in which it appears include JFK (1991).
- "Tequila" was played in Breakfast at Tiffany's, during the party that Audrey Hepburn's character hosted.
"Don't" by Elvis Presley
|Billboard Top 100 number-one single
March 17, 1958 (5 weeks)
"Twilight Time" by The Platters
- Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 109.
- Huelyn Duvall. "Memories of the Tequila Recording Session". Retrieved August 21, 2006.
- Grobaty, Tim. "Danny Flores Remembered". Spectropop. Retrieved 2013-11-26.
- "A Thousand Kisses Deep overview". Allmusic.com.
- "Time again - David Sanborn". JazzTimes.com.
- "Husky Marching Band Facts and Traditions".