TEQUILA! Oh I remember a few nights…or don’t remember….nevermind.
This was a B side…a great B side. Train To Nowhere was the A side to this single. Disc jockeys flipped the single and played “Tequila” instead, and in 1958, it peaked at #1 in the Billboard Charts and #5 in the UK in 1958. The song was one of the biggest hits of the ’50s.
Leo Kulka, who was the second engineer, said this song was an afterthought after the band recorded “Train to Nowhere.” Some of the musicians had already left the studio when it was brought up that nothing had been recorded for the B-side. The remaining musicians were rounded up and the song was written on the spot. The “Tequila” part of the song was simply an attempt to cover up the holes in the song. After all, it was just the B-side.
Like most bands with a surprise hit…they released more Tequila related songs, including “Too Much Tequila” and “Tequila Twist.” Didn’t have the same impact.
Danny Flores, who was the saxophone player in The Champs, wrote this song… it’s credited to his pen name, Chuck Rio.
Tequila is an alcoholic beverage named after a town in Mexico. It is a key ingredient in Margaritas and is often done as a shot by licking salt, taking the drink, then sucking a lemon wedge. Many bars turn this song into a production, often offering shots of tequila directly from the bottle.
The Champs were a Los Angeles group that named themselves after Gene Autry’s horse, Champion. The “Train to Nowhere”/”Tequila” single was their first release. They had a few more modest instrumental hits, including the follow-up, “El Rancho Rock,” which reached #30 in the US, but never came close to the success of “Tequila.” Later members of the group included Glen Campbell, Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts (Seals & Crofts of ’70s fame.
After The Champs, the Eagles were the next group to chart with a “Tequila” song, reaching #64 with “Tequila Sunrise” in 1973. The beverage fell out of favor musically in the ’80s, but was revived in the ’90s by Terrorvision (“Tequila”) and Sammy Hagar (“Mas Tequila”). It later became a hot topic in country songs, with tracks like “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” and “You and Tequila.”
As the song started climbing the chart, a sax player named Eddie Platt released a competing version that reached #20. Other cover versions of the song to chart are by:
Bill Black’s Combo – #91 in 1964
Hot Butter – #105 in 73
A.L.T. & The Lost Civilization – #48 in 1992
This was featured in the 1985 movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. It was used in a scene where Pee Wee Herman wins over the crowd in a biker bar by doing a dance to the song. The movie was the first feature film directed by Tim Burton, and Danny Elfman wrote the score.
This won for Best Rhythm & Blues Performance at the first ever Grammy Awards in 1959.