Tag Archives: lancaster

In A Word: A Classic

Few people recognize the name Danny Flores, but it would be hard to find anyone who isn’t familiar with his growling voice and saxophone – known to all from a single song: Tequila.

Tequila, the jaunty Latin-rhythmed ditty that saved Pee-wee Herman from a beating in Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, went to number one on the American charts on this date back in 1958.

Both Tequila and The Champs, the group that recorded the song, have roots in the Santa Clarita Valley and neighboring areas.

The story begins with a Lancaster disk jockey and session guitarist named Dave Burgess who needed a B-side for a single he had written called Train to Nowhere.

On December 23, 1957, Burgess was working for Challenge Records recording backing tracks for another artist at Gold Star Studios in Hollywood. Challenge was owned by singing cowboy Gene Autry, who also owned the Melody Ranch studios in Newhall at the time.

Also in the studio that day were a group of session musicians called the Flores Trio, which consisted of Danny Flores on the sax, Gene Alden on drums, and Buddy Bruce on lead guitar. Flores was the 28-year-old son of Mexican field workers from the Heritage Valley town of Santa Paula, California.

The scheduled sessions ended for the day and the musicians found themselves with some open recording time which they filled by jamming to create the B-side for Burgess’ single.

Flores crafted the song in three takes, tearing through the sax solos and growling out it’s single-word lyric, “Tequila!” (Since Flores was under contract to another record company, he was credited on the single as Chuck Rio.)

The song would most likely have been lost to history on its release had Train to Nowhere not flopped, prompting a Cleveland disk jockey to play the flip-side one day.

Tequila was already on the charts when the musicians decided to create a band, which they named “The Champs” after Gene Autry’s horse Champion.

Talk about getting the chart before the horse! (Sorry.)

The band never had another hit, but was successful enough touring to last until 1965. It had a revolving door lineup of members which at various times included Glen Campbell, Delaney Bramlett, later of Delaney and Bonnie, and Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts, who would re-emerge as the successful duo Seals and Crofts.

Flores left the band soon after its creation, but continued to play professionally for the next several decades before dying from Parkinson’s disease in 2006. He sold the American rights to Tequila early on and therefore never got rich off the song, but was still able to earn around $70,000 per year off of it from overseas markets.

Tequila, the one-word, one-hit wonder, eventually sold over six million copies worldwide.

Not bad for a throwaway.

(I will be conducting tours of Melody Ranch during the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival the last weekend of April. Click here for details.)

The Musical Road: Share and Enjoy!

There’s a strip of highway just off the Antelope Freeway (CA 14) in Lancaster, California, where drivers not only feel the road, but hear it as well.

A few years ago the good folks from Honda came out to this desert community to make a commercial. They took the idea behind the rumble strips that are used to alert drivers when they stray from their lanes, and cut hundreds of grooves in the pavement. Now when you drive over this quarter-mile stretch of Avenue G between 30th and 40th Streets West, you are treated to the closing strains of Rossini’s William Tell Overture.

Here is a link to a YouTube video that Kimi and I made recently on the Musical Road: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_dBjN2_MKE

My family and I drive over this stretch of desolate highway whenever we are up in Lancaster. We have tried it at a variety of speeds, but the truth is that the grooves are the wrong height in places which causes the tune to be slightly off. It is reminiscent of the robotic choir from the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation singing Share and Enjoy. (And in case you have no idea what I’m talking about, click here: Share and Enjoy)

It’s still a blast, and the only real reason to visit Lancaster. But I learned recently that some curmudgeonly homeowners near the original site of the Musical Road were so angered by the increased noise levels that they demanded the city pave it over, which they did. Luckily for fun-lovers like us, the city re-created the current Musical Road far away from these haters.

Now with the nearest neighbors miles away, we once again have a reason to stop in Lancaster. (Better enjoy it now before the settlers move in and spoil everyone’s fun.)  

And while you’re there, make sure and tell any Lancaster resident you run across who complained the first time to “Go, stick your head in a pig!”

Here is a link to the Honda commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJFGacuxcSM