Five Versions of "Tequila" to Drink To on Cinco de Mayo

Everyone knows "Tequila," the 1958 hit by the California combo The Champs, even if they don't know the name of the band that recorded it. 

The song was originally cut as a toss-away b-side for rockabilly artist Dave Burgess' single "Train to Nowhere." But it was "Tequila," written by songwriter/saxophonist Danny Flores -- listed as Chuck Rio on the '45 -- with its trademark dirty sax and solitary lyric, that wound up becoming a hit.

After the success of the tune, Burgess and the Flores Trio merged to become The Champs. They never scored a hit as big as "Tequila" again, but the song has lived on in popular consciousness, being featured in three great films from the late 80s/early 90s: Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Sandlot, where Paul Reubens boogied to it, mutated turtles also boogied to it, and a bunch of adorable scamps barfed to it, respectively.

The song has lived on in music, too. Here are some of the strangest and most fun versions of the song we found scouring YouTube, perfect for your Cino de Drinko revelry.   

This version by industrial project Klutæ may start out like the original, but it quickly gets way louder. Play this one for anyone who says gothy industrial folks take themselves too seriously.

This version by Latin hip-hop group A.L.T. & The Lost Civilization celebrates booze of all kinds. Sample lyric: "In walked José Cuevo, it was Margarita's man/I talked to the Wise Man, cause yo, he's distinguished/His name is St. Ides and he spoke in Olde English."

The Ventures weren't the only surf band to cover "Tequila." The Yankees substitute their band name for "tequila," but the vibe here is way looser than the Ventures, and the drummer goes bonkers.

English Two Tone Ska band Bad Manners do a great version, with some wailing sax, and frontman Buster Bloodvessel bringing a typically rude slant to the song's hook.

This version by Madness singer Suggs, also known as Graham McPherson, isn't technically a cover as it just samples the sax riff, but it belongs here for a few reasons, chiefly being the ridiculous appropriation of the macarena beat, and the second being how apt the song's title will fit the morning of May 6.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Jason P. Woodbury is a music and pop-culture writer based in Phoenix. He is a regular contributor to the music blog Aquarium Drunkard and co-host of the Transmissions podcast.