The Champs Biography

Best known for the classic 1958 rock ‘n’ roll near-instrumental ‘Tequila’, a US number 1 song, the Champs were formed in Los Angeles, California, USA, in December 1957. The five musicians initially comprising the group were Dave Burgess (rhythm guitar), Danny Flores (Daniel Flores, 11 July 1929, Santa Paula, California, USA, d. 19 September 2006, Huntington Beach, California, USA; saxophone/piano), Cliff Hills (bass), Buddy Bruce (lead guitar) and Gene Alden (drums). The musicians were united by Joe Johnson, co-owner of Challenge Records, for the purpose of providing backing for the Kuf-Linx vocal group. With time left after that session, the musicians recorded three instrumentals written by Burgess. Flores, who also went under the name Chuck Rio, as he was already contracted to the RPM label, taught the others ‘Tequila’ from a riff on which he had worked for performance at club bookings in Los Angeles. The recording was considered a ‘throwaway’ by the musicians, who did not even stay to hear the final playback. Issued in January 1958 under the name Champs (in honour of Champion, a horse owned by Challenge founder Gene Autry), ‘Tequila’ was planned as the b-side to ‘Train To Nowhere’. Radio stations preferred ‘Tequila’ and the Champs’ version battled for chart positions with a cover version of the song by Eddie Platt; the latter’s version reached number 20 in the US charts while the Champs’ made number 1.

With the song a success, there was a need for them to tour, so a new line-up was formed including Flores, Burgess, Alden and new members Dale Norris (guitar) and Joe Burnas (bass). Flores and Alden left in late 1958 and were replaced by Jim Seals (b. 17 October 1941, Sidney, Texas, USA; saxophone), Dash Crofts (b. 14 August 1940, Cisco, Texas, USA; drums) and Dean Beard (piano). Seals and Crofts remained with the group until its termination, before forming the Dawnbreakers and then re-emerging in the late 60s as a popular acoustic music duo (Seals And Crofts). The Champs placed a further seven singles in the charts through 1962, none of which came close to matching the debut’s success. Further personnel changes occurred throughout their history, most notably the replacement of Burgess by young guitarist Glen Campbell in 1960. The Champs disbanded in 1964.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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