The Champs

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The Champs
The band in 1958
The band in 1958
Background information
OriginLos Angeles, California, United States
GenresRock and roll
Years active1957–1965, 2020–present

The Champs are an American rock and roll band, most famous for their Latin-tinged instrumental "Tequila".[1][2] The group took their name from that of Gene Autry's horse, Champion,[2] and was formed by studio executives at Autry's Challenge Records[3] to record a B-side for the Dave Burgess single, "Train to Nowhere". The intended throwaway track became more famous than its A-side, as "Tequila" went to No. 1 in just three weeks,[2] and the band became the first group to go to the top spot with an instrumental that was their first release.[4] The song was recorded at Gold Star Studios in fall 1957, and in 1959 won the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance.[5] It sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.[6]


Success with their 1958 song "Tequila"[edit]

"Tequila" was written by the saxophonist Danny Flores, although he was credited as Chuck Rio because he was under contract to another record label (RPM Records) at the time.[2] Flores, who was of Mexican heritage and died in September 2006, was known as the "Godfather of Latino rock".[4] Flores' "dirty sax" and his low-voiced "Tequila" are the hallmarks of the song.[7] Flores signed away the US rights to the song but retained worldwide rights until his death.[8]

There are many cover versions of the tune, including a jazz version by guitarist Wes Montgomery in 1966. It has also been recorded by rappers A.L.T. and XL Singleton. The Champs also had success with instrumentals such as "Limbo Rock" and "El Rancho Rock". In 1985, "Tequila" featured prominently in the film Pee Wee's Big Adventure. The Champs also recorded a sequel to "Tequila" entitled "Too Much Tequila".

2020 band reunion[edit]

In 2020, group leader Burgess resurrected The Champs for a new album, Tequila Party, scheduled for November release. The LP contains 12 newly recorded tracks including a "party" rendition of their signature hit plus seven new compositions.

Band members[edit]

Dave "Snuffy" Smith played bass from late 1959 to 1960. Other members around this time were Jimmy Seals, Dash Crofts, with Johnny Meeks (originally of Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps) on lead guitar.[9] Later band members included Glen Campbell,[10] Jerry Cole, Chuck Downs (drums), Rich Grissom, Gary Nieland (drums), Jerry Puckett (guitar), Marvin Siders, and Leon Sanders. The last lineup of the band, in 1964,[2] included Johnny Trombatore, who co-wrote some songs with Jim Seals, Dash Crofts, Maurice Marshall, bassist Curtis Paul and Seals' replacement, Keith MacKendrick (who later stayed on saxophone when Seals returned.)


Year Titles (A-side, B-side)
Both sides from same album except where indicated
Chart positions Album
1958 "Tequila"
b/w "Train To Nowhere"
1 1 5 Go, Champs, Go!
"El Rancho Rock" / 30 10
"Midnighter" 94
"Chariot Rock"
b/w "Subway"
59 Everybody's Rockin'
b/w "Rockin' Mary"
b/w "Gone Train"
Non-album tracks
1959 "Caramba"
b/w "Moonlight Bay"
"Night Train"
b/w "The Rattler"
"Sky High"
b/w "Double Eagle Rock"
1960 "Too Much Tequila"
b/w "Twenty Thousand Leagues" (Non-album track)
30 49 Great Dance Hits
"The Little Matador"
b/w "Red Eye"
Non-album tracks
"Alley Cat"
b/w "Cocoanut Grove"
"Tough Train"
b/w "The Face"
1961 "Sombrero"
b/w "The Shoddy Shoddy" (from Great Dance Hits)
"Hokey Pokey"
b/w "Jumping Bean" (Non-album track)
Great Dance Hits
1962 "Tequila Twist" / 99
"Limbo Rock" 40
"Experiment In Terror"
b/w "La Cucaracha"
Non-album tracks
"I've Just Seen Her"
b/w "What A Country"
The Champs Play All-American
"Limbo Dance"
b/w "Latin Limbo"
97 Non-album tracks
"That Did It"
b/w "Varsity Rock"
1963 "Nik Nak"
b/w "Shades"
"Mr. Cool"
b/w "3/4 Mash"
"Cactus Juice"
b/w "Roots"
"San Juan"
b/w "Jalisco"
1964 "Only The Young"
b/w "Switzerland"
b/w "Fraternity Waltz"
1965 "Bright Lights, Big City"
b/w "French 75"
1966 "Anna"
b/w "Buckaroo"
1987 "Tequila"
b/w "Pee Wee's Dance" (by Joseki Love)
82 Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Soundtrack)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGuinness, Paul (February 9, 2022). "Best Surf Rock: Sunshine-Drenched Music To Catch A Wave To". uDiscover Music. Retrieved 2022-02-28.
  2. ^ a b c d e Colin Larkin, ed. (2002). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Fifties Music (Third ed.). Virgin Books. p. 65. ISBN 1-85227-937-0.
  3. ^ "THE CHAMPS (1958-1965)". Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  4. ^ a b [1] [dead link]
  5. ^ "1st Annual Grammy Awards". Retrieved 2014-03-10.
  6. ^ Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 98. ISBN 0-214-20512-6.
  7. ^ [2][dead link]
  8. ^ Pete Larsen. "Danny Flores, 'Tequila' songwriter, dies at 77". Retrieved 2013-10-15.
  9. ^ Dave Smith Oct 1999
  10. ^ Campbell, Glen (1994). Rhinestone Cowboy. New York: Villard Books. p. 50. ISBN 0-679-41999-3.

External links[edit]