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Monday, July 4, 2011


Born Daniel Flores July 11, 1929 in Rankin, Texas he moved to Santa Paula, California with his Mexican parents in the 1930's and would become known as "The Godfather Of Latino Rock".

  He first picked up a guitar at family gatherings in his early teens and benefited from the input of various relatives. By the late Forties, he had moved to the saxophone and was trying to emulate the rasping sound of Vido Musso, a tenor player who had made his name with Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton and was now recording for Modern, the West Coast label Flores would eventually sign to as a vocalist.

Flores played a variety of musical styles - jazz, country, pop, rhythm'n'blues - to entertain the clientele of the Long Beach clubs and bars where he appeared with his own quartet and famously remarked that some people began calling him "the Mexican hillbilly".

  In 1957 he would record "Trying To Forget" and "No Matter What You Do" released on the RPM label
Later in 1957, he met Dave Burgess, another aspiring songwriter, singer and guitarist with Challenge, a California label bankrolled by Gene Autry, the Singing Cowboy.

  After a few gigs as Danny and Dave, they used the drummer Gene Alden and guitarist Buddy Bruce, who were members of Flores's group, the session bassist Cliff Hills and Huelyn Duvall on backing vocals during a recording session held at Goldstar studios in Hollywood on 23 December ostensibly to record "Train to Nowhere", a Burgess instrumental. They also cut "Night Beat" and did three takes of "Tequila", based on a Latin-flavoured riff Flores used to play live as part of his club act. They decided to call themselves the Champs after Champion, a horse owned by Autry, while "Tequila" was credited to Chuck Rio on the label.

He had to use the name Chuck Rio because he was still signed to the Modern label who has him as a vocalist. Challenge contended that he was an instrumentalist but because he sung one word "Tequila" that made him a vocalist.

When a DJ in Massachussets flipped the "Train to Nowhere" single and played "Tequila", listeners began requesting the near-instrumental, which started to climb up the charts in January 1958. It eventually reached number one in the US and made the UK Top Five in the spring of 1958 (despite a rush-released cover by Ted Heath and His Music).

 Chuck Rio also cut two vocal sides for Challenge but became involved in a tug of war with Burgess and the record label over the leadership and ownership of the Champs. A compromise was eventually reached with Rio allowing them the rights to use the Champs' trademark for three years and the group carried on with an ever-changing line-up which, at times, included Glen Campbell, then a session guitarist, and Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, who went on to become the Seventies duo Seals and Crofts.

The saxophonist formed the Original Champs, who soon became known as the Originals, but never came close to creating another "Tequila". By 1963, Rio had moved to the Saturn label, where he cut a series of raucous instrumentals later gathered on the Surfer's Nightmare album. In recent years, he had been suffering from Parkinson's disease.

  Chuck Rio passed away September 19, 2006 in Wstminister, California.

You may listen to Chuck Rio "Margarita" here:

                                                                   Chuck Rio And The Champs                                                       

You may listen to Chuck Rio & The Chanps "Tequila" here:

A fine compilatio CD is available from Ace Records entitled "Chuck Rio - The Tequila Man"


Solely for historical, educational and listening pleasure.


  1. When I was 12 I met a guy called Chuck Rio aka Danny Flores aka Mr. Tequila. He would hire kids in the neighborhood looking for pocket money to wash his windows and help around the garden. He had a room in his small stucco house with a piano some pictures of different bands he was in (ie. The Champs) and a precious metallic record or two.

    Apparently he had it figured out. He could; collect on his modest royalties, rent working class houses in places like North Long Beach, as "Mr. Tequila" happily play bars in NLB, Compton, Lakewood and the surroundings and have a comfortable sustainable life.

    Although he would play sax and piano for the local kids at his house, I was too young to go the bars he played in. Rumors were sometimes his friends from the industry would show up and sit in on his sessions, at least I heard of Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett being among his stage guests.

    Mr. Tequila was a likable neighbor. I tried to get in contact with Mr. Tequila few years ago before he died without any luck. I don't have Flores/Rio's entire story but he seemed a normal human being.

    D.L. Jónsson

  2. When i was 16 and working restaurant jobs I remember Danny playing at the Rustic Room at Paramount and Del Amo in 65-66. He did a good Stagger Lee and Tequila several times a night.