The song “Tequila” was first recorded on Dec. 23, 1957 at a studio session by rockabilly singer Dave Burgess. Three of Burgess’s songs were to be recorded that night for Gene Autry’s label Challenge Records. Realizing they didn’t have a B-side to for the song “Train to Nowhere,” saxophone player Danny Flores suggested his half-written instrumental to fill the space. It was recorded on the fly; second engineer Leo Kulka recalls that some of the musicians had already gone home. To make it all work, Flores simply said the word “Tequila” a few times during the recording to fill holes in the song.
“Tequila” was released as a B-Side in January 1958, with songwriting credit to Chuck Rio, a stage name of Flores. Though the A-Side, “Train to Nowhere,” failed to catch on, “Tequila” took off once DJs started flipping over the 45.
It had climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Charts by March.
In honor of National Tequila Day, we look at five great moments inspired by that last-minute recording back in 1957. To start, here are The Champs doing their big hit live on the Saturday Night Beechnut Show, hosted by a young Dick Clark.
Eddie Platt’s cover
There are more than two-dozen recorded cover songs of “Tequila,” and the first one came out the very same year as the original. The two songs even competed against one-another on the Billboard charts that year, with Platt’s version topping out at No. 20.
Once the boys decide to try their hand at some Big Chief chewing tobacco, they immediately take to the amusement park rides. After being spun around on the Trabant, it doesn’t take long for things to turn south for everyone, with “Tequila” providing the soundtrack the entire time.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Movie
As Splinter begins to quietly meditate, he’s interrupted by Donatello and Michelangelo who begin their rock and roll song and dance routine. Though, to keep with the theme, they changed the lyric to “Ninjitsu.”
Joeski Love – “Pee-wee’s Dance”
Using the melody of The Champs’ song as the hook, Joeski Love released “Pee-wee’s Dance” as a single in 1986. The song would later go platinum. An ode to Pee-wee and his infamous big-screen dance number the year before, it was by far the biggest selling song of his career.
Pee-wee’s Big Adventure
Appearing on numerous soundtracks for almost 60 years, none are more celebrated than this one. In 1985’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, our hero finds himself in over his head when he stumbles into a private meeting of the Satan’s Helpers before knocking their bikes over as he’s trying to leave. Allowing him one last request, Pee-wee plays one fateful song on the jukebox, and ends up winning them over with his now immortal dance moves.