A driving rhythmic six-man unit voted the most promising instrumental group of the year in the 1958 ‘Cash Box’ magazine poll. Best known for their classic 1958 rock ‘n’ roll almost instrumental ‘Tequila’ which was a U.S. #1, reaching #5 here in the U.K. It all started in December 1957 at the Hollywood studious of Challenge Records. The six musicians, who had just completed the backing for a vocalist, were ‘hanging around’ for a private free-swinging jam session. An interested observer was the label’s alert director of A&R, Joe Johnson. Johnson liked what he heard and his reaction to the boys was “you sure have something different and very commercial, you’re champs in my book”. He ordered a record session for the six musicians three days later. And so The Champs were created and it was their, soon to become million-plus seller ‘Tequila’ that took a nation by storm with their Latin rocker that highlighted the exciting new sound of the sextet.
They followed their massive debut recording with another smash hit, ‘El Rancho Rock’. A cross-country tour carried the Champs to the major cities of the U.S. and Canada, with top T.V. Show appearances such as Ed Sullivan and Dick Clarke’s ‘American Bandstand’. A young ex-disc jockey from California the talented Dave Burgess was the leader of The Champs. He not only played guitar but also wrote and arranged much of their material. Other members of the group back then were Dale Norris (electric guitar), of St. Louis, Van Norman (bass) and three lads from Texas - Dash Crofts (drums); Jimmy Seals (tenor sax); and Dean Beard (piano). They were all in their early twenties. Their Challenge recordings were making an impact internationally and they were soon to get the opportunity to tour Europe. A treat to hear and see, sporting flashy silk suits as a uniform in the most colourful shades - their future looked very bright indeed.
In the history of rock instrumentals, non-vocal bands have added key words to emphasise these recordings giving them a novelty theme. Examples include Hootsmon!, Let’s Go, Wipe Out, Hot Pastrami, Point Panic! and many more. But the daddy of them all remains “T-E-QU-I-L-A!”
The Champs were to have a further seven singles make the U.S. Charts through to 1962. The story of The Champs from America’s Challenge record label, is one of countless musicians, some instrumentalists who would stay so long in the band then move on and some up and coming guitar players who would go on to great things in either session work or great vocals success. Of the founder members of the band, it was one Chuck Rio (Danny Flores) who was to write the hit ‘Tequila’ also playing sax on the track. Seals and Crofts remained with the group until it’s termination, before forming the Dawnbreakers and then re-emerging in the late 60s as a popular acoustic duo. Further personnel changes occurred throughout their history, most notably the replacement of Burgess by young guitarist Glen Campbell in 1960. The Champs were to disband in 1964. Included here are many of the sides which appeared on their EPs both British and European releases, and also a few that appeared as album tracks here but were EPs in the U.S.
Included in these EP sides are many of their hits from both sides of the Atlantic such as ‘Tequila’ (U.S. #1 - Feb ‘58), ‘El Ranch Rock’ (U.S. #30 - May ‘58), ‘Midnighter’ (U.S. #94 - Aug ‘58), ‘Chariot Rock’ (U.S. #59 - Aug. ‘58), ‘Too Much Tequila’ ( U.S. #30 - Jan ‘60), ‘Limbo Rock’ (U.S. #40 - May ‘62), ‘Tequila Twist’ (U.S. #99 - Feb ‘62). ‘Tequila’ continued to be a massive worldwide hit and re-issues of it would continue sell for the next three decades. It was in 1987 a 12” single version would re-chart in the U.K top 100 dance and mainstream chart.
So settle back and listen to a great collection of toe-tapping R&R party music from one of the best instrumental Rock ‘n’ Roll bands from the later fifties and early sixties - from those wonderful EPs.