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Champs, The

The Champs evolved from a group of Texan session musicians hired by Gene Autry for his fledgeling Challenge Records label in Hollywood.

Tequila was their first and greatest record. It evolved from a studio jam at Challenge Records in Los Angeles. Written by sax-player Chuck Rio, the tune’s mix of raucous saxophone and Latin rhythm took it to #1 in America and #5 in Britain in 1958.

The track was revived in 1985 for the soundtrack of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.

The follow-up El Rancho Rock was less successful and Alden and Rio left. The replacements were Dean Beard, Jimmy Seals and Dash Crofts and The Champs tried in vain for another hit with novelty titles like Mau Mau Stomp, Beatnik and Rockin’ Mary.

champs_001

More personnel changes followed as Bobby Norris replaced bass-player Van Norman, who was killed in a car crash, and Beard left to pursue a recording career in Los Angeles and Nashville.

In 1962 the group tried to climb aboard the dance-craze bandwagon, releasing a Great Dance Hits album from which Limbo Rock was a minor hit.

Burgess left the group and was briefly replaced by session guitarist Glen Campbell. Challenge continued to release Champs singles (including a credible version of Jimmy Reed’s R&B classic Bright Lights Big City in 1965) until the group dissolved in 1964.

Seals and Crofts formed The Dawnbreakers and after their conversion to the Baha’i faith became a duo. They made numerous soft-rock albums during the 70s for Warner Brothers, scoring Top Ten hits with Summer Breeze (1972), Diamond Girl (1973) and Get Closer (1976).

Chuck Rio (Daniel Flores)
Saxophone, Keyboards, vocals
Dave Burgess
Guitar
Dale Norris
Guitar
Van Norman
Bass
Gene Alden
Drums
Jim Seals
Saxophone
Dash Crofts
Drums
Dean Beard
Keyboards
Bobby Norris
Bass