Danny Flores, who played the saxophone and shouted the word “tequila!” in the 1950s hit song “Tequila!”, has died. He was 77.
Flores, who lived in Westminster, died Tuesday at Huntington Beach Hospital, said hospital spokeswoman Kathleen Curran. He died of complications from pneumonia, the Long Beach Press-Telegram reported.
The man sometimes called the “godfather of Latin rock” was born in Santa Paula but grew up in Long Beach. By age 5 he was playing guitar in church and at 14 he was a member of a trio that performed Mexican music.
In 1957, Flores was in a group that recorded some work with rockabilly singer Dave Burgess. One of the songs was based on a nameless riff Flores had written. He played the “dirty” saxophone part and repeatedly growled the single-word lyric: “Tequila!”
The next year it appeared as the B-side of a single, credited to the Champs. Flores used the name Chuck Rio because he was under contract to a different record label.
“Tequila!” went to No. 1 on the Billboard chart and won a Grammy in 1959 for best rhythm and blues performance. Flores continued to play it for the next 40 years.
“I can honestly tell you he never got tired of playing that song,” said his wife, Sharee.
The song has been used in numerous commercials and TV shows. It became popular with a new generation after it was used in the 1985 movie “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.”
“After that, we got shows all over the U.S.,” said Mrs. Flores, who sang in the shows. “All these younger people who hadn’t heard it were suddenly in love with the song. Danny was just so proud of it.”
Besides his wife, Flores is survived by seven children from previous marriages and 15 grandchildren.