Now that Christmas is in the rear-view mirror, a lot of folks will be looking towards New Year’s Eve for their next celebration. If you’re one of those who plan to host a party, you might want to heed the advice of an oldies-era instrumental group — it’s possible to have too much tequila.
In the late 1950’s pop music was in a state of transition, with everything from rockabilly to R&B fighting to claim the attention of young music lovers. In the Los Angeles area, a guitar-playing record company executive named Dave Burgess decided to take his shot. He put together a studio group that included fellow guitarist Buddy Bruce, drummer Gene Alden, and bassist Cliff Hills. He also enlisted saxophonist Danny Flores, who would later become known as the Godfather of Latin Rock.
Burgess had written a song called “Train To Nowhere” that he thought might get the attention of the record buying public. For the ‘B’ side of the record, the guys recorded a little song that saxman Flores (calling himself Chuck Rio at that time) had written. Released on Burgess’ Challenge Records label in 1958, the record rocketed up the charts and reached number one — but not quite like they expected. The nominal ‘B’ side, Flores’s “Tequila,” became one of the biggest pop music hits of the year.
Over the next few years the Champs recorded a string of similar Latin-flavored songs, including a few that sold reasonably well, among them “Rancho Rock” and “Limbo Rock.” They also recorded “Too Much Tequila,” which could be interpreted as the lament of a hung-over drinker — or as a tongue-in-cheek statement by a bunch of guys who were tired of playing their one big hit.
Although the group did evolve a little through the years, and at one time included among its members Glenn Campbell and even Seals & Crofts, the Champs had faded into musical history by the late 1960’s. But even after all these years their signature hit, complete with Flores’ honking sax and “tequila!” shout, is still familiar to almost everybody.